Over 30 groups, including Oxfam America, Amnesty International, and the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), penned a joint letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to express alarm over the Pentagon’s plans to transfer armaments from existing US stocks already positioned in Israel.
“Under the current circumstances, granting the government of Israel access to these munitions would undermine the protection of civilians, respect for international humanitarian law (IHL), and the credibility of the Biden administration,” the groups wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post.
“Simply put, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which high explosive 155mm artillery shells could be used in Gaza in compliance with IHL,” they added.
The arms are part of what is known as the War Reserve Stockpile, which is pre-positioned in Israel to facilitate the arming of US forces, or for transfer to Israel, the daily reported. The newspaper said it is not clear if the transfer of the artillery ammunition has already happened.
US President Joe Biden and his senior officials have long reiterated that they expect Israel to comply with international law as it carries out its ongoing campaign in Gaza. But they have repeatedly shirked away from responding to whether Israel is actually in compliance as the death toll continues to mount.
Biden has been facing growing criticism after voicing unwavering support for Israel’s campaign, which it is conducting in response to a shocking Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas in which over 1,200 people were killed and hundreds more taken back to Gaza as hostages.
Israel on Friday revised down its earlier estimate of over 1,400 killed during last month’s attack.
Biden’s fellow Democrats have increasingly been joining calls from the international community to implement a ceasefire to halt the ongoing violence in Gaza, but the president has so far rejected any support for the initiative.
The war has exacerbated already poor humanitarian conditions in Gaza, with basic necessities such as food, water, and fuel increasingly depleted amid an Israeli siege that has severely restricted deliveries of badly needed international aid to the coastal enclave.
At least 11,180 Palestinians have been killed, including over 7,700 children and women, and more than 28,200 others have been injured, according to the latest figures from Palestinian authorities in Gaza.