Israel must comply with laws of war under US weapons assistance policy

Israeli soldiers gather on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel is no exception to U.S. policy that any country receiving its weapons must comply with the laws of war, the State Department said on Monday after Washington sold about 14,000 tank shells to Israel without congressional review.

The Biden administration on Friday used emergency authority under the Arms Export Control Act to allow the $106.5 million sale, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

The U.S. expects every country receiving its military assistance to use it "in full compliance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war, and Israel is no exception," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told a news briefing on Monday.

Miller was asked if Washington has assessed whether Israel has complied the Biden administration's February 2023 Conventional Arms Transfers (CAP) policy. That requires the State Department to determine arms are unlikely to be used to for genocide, crimes against humanity, breaches of the Geneva conventions or serious violations of international law.

Miller said the State Department had not made such a determination and reiterated the U.S. stance that Israel can do more in the Gaza conflict to minimize civilian harm.

When asked if the United States was collecting any information on whether any war crimes were committed, Miller said: "We are monitoring everything that happens in this conflict. We are engaged in conversations with the Israeli government."

As the war intensified, how and where exactly the U.S. weapons are used in the conflict has come under more scrutiny, even though U.S. officials say there are no plans to put conditions on military aid to Israel or to consider withholding some of it.

The Gaza health ministry said 18,205 people had died and in Gaza in just over two months of warfare. The death toll and desperate conditions for civilians in Gaza have sparked international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Costas Pitas and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)