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Latest Israel-Hamas War News: Live Updates

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Latest Israel-Hamas War News: Live Updates

United Nations human rights experts on Friday urged countries to stop transferring arms or ammunition to Israel that it might use in Gaza on the grounds that they could be deployed to commit war crimes.

More than 30 U.N. human rights monitors signed onto a statement issued on Friday asserting that Israel’s military operations in Gaza had repeatedly violated international law and that states were obligated under international law to halt arms transfers if evidence suggested they might be used to commit war crimes.

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting State does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law — or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way — as long as there is a clear risk,” the statement said.

Israel has rejected allegations that it has committed war crimes in the operations it launched in Gaza after the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7. It maintains it has tried to warn civilians in advance to leave areas being attacked and has targeted only civilian buildings being usedby Hamas for military purposes.

But Israel has faced growing international condemnation for the tens of thousands of civilians, most of them women and children, who Gazan health officials say have been killed or injured since it began its invasion of Gaza in October.

Human rights experts have said that Israel’s use of powerful, imprecise bombs with a wide blast range in densely populated areas amounts to an indiscriminate and disproportionate attack on civilians that cannot be justified by military necessity under international law.

Hamas, the armed group that once controlled Gaza, is also accused of committing atrocities against Israeli civilians during cross-border attacks on Oct. 7. Israeli officials say Hamas-led raiders killed 1,200 people and took 250 hostage.

Multiple news organizations have reported allegations of sexual violence during the attack, and The New York Times in late December published a monthslong investigation that included accounts from several eyewitnesses who said they saw women being sexually assaulted and killed.

A report released by the U.N.’s human rights chief, Volker Türk, later on Friday found that all parties in the conflict had committed “clear violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes.”

He urged governments to use their influence to stop, and not to enable, violations of international law, and also called for an independent investigation to determine other potential violations of international law.

The experts called for Israel’s leading arms suppliers, the United States and Germany, to halt military aid, along with Britain, France, Canada and Australia. Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain have already decided to suspend arms transfers to Israel.

The United States supplies the most military aid to Israel, more than $3 billion, which accounts for about two-thirds of Israel’s arms imports.

It also maintains large weapons stockpiles in Israel, which the United States has allowed the Israeli military to draw from.

President Biden has shown no sign of changing course despite recently characterizing Israel’s military response in Gaza as “over the top” and receiving sharp criticism from within his administration and skepticism from allies in Europe.

Asked about the U.N. experts’ recommendations, a State Department spokesperson said the United States supported Israel’s right to self-defense and that U.S. officials had made clear that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law, including taking steps to minimize harm to civilians.

Earlier this month, the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, responded to President Biden’s stated concern over the immense civilian suffering, saying that “if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms.”

His comments echoed wider European calls for a halt to arms sales to Israel. A Dutch court this month ordered the Netherlands to block shipments to Israel of F-35 jet fighter parts from American-owned warehouses. Judges rejected the government’s argument that the aircraft were essential for Israel’s security and said there was a “clear risk the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Britain continues to allow arms sales to Israel, one of its close allies, but is under pressure to change its policy as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty, which says that states should not supply arms that might be used to commit genocide or crimes against humanity.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to documents produced in court proceedings earlier this year, was unable to conclude that Israeli operations in Gaza complied with international humanitarian law, and British government ministers have warned Israel against an assault on Rafah.

Adam Sella contributed reporting.

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