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State Dept. Puts  Israel on Notice Over Use of US  Arms - 2002-07-24


There were more signs of U.S. displeasure Wednesday over Israel's attack in Gaza City Monday, using a U.S.-provided F-16 fighter jet that killed civilians in an apartment block, along with a leader of the radical Palestinian group Hamas.

Administration officials indicate there will be no formal accusation that Israel used American weapons in the Gaza attack in violation of U.S. arms sales laws. However the State Department is putting Israel on notice that it is monitoring its actions carefully, and warning it of "consequences" if it misuses U.S.-provided arms.

A 1976 law prohibits the use of U.S. weapons sold to foreign countries for anything other than "legitimate self-defense or internal security." The State Department is required to report to Congress if it believes there has been a "substantial violation" of the terms of sale.

Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there has been no such report to Congress stemming from the Gaza attack. But he nonetheless said there is deep concern in Washington about Israeli tactics in the operation, which the White House has described as "heavy-handed."

"We've not made a report like this since the current violence began," said Mr. Boucher. "But we've made it quite clear that we're seriously concerned about some of the Israeli tactics, some of the Israeli actions, including targeted killings and actions like this that endanger civilians. So we continue to watch and monitor Israeli actions very carefully. We urge Israel to consider the consequences of actions such as these."

In the Gaza attack, a U.S.-provided Israeli F-16 jet dropped a laser-guided bomb that leveled a Gaza apartment block and severely damaged some others. The head of the military wing of Hamas, held responsible for many suicide bombings against Israelis, was killed along with a reported 14 other Palestinians, including several children.

Spokesman Boucher said the United States would take part in a U.N. Security Council debate on the Gaza attack requested by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, though a senior official here said the United States would likely oppose an Arab draft resolution condemning Israel on the issue, if it was put to a vote.

Mr. Boucher said the Bush administration remains focussed on efforts to revive the regional peace process by implementing action plans for Palestinian political and security reforms.

He said the United States would expect this to be matched by "reciprocal" Israeli action, including the easing of closures of Palestinian areas, the hand-over of impounded Palestinian tax revenues to "responsible parties," and facilitating the movement of humanitarian goods and services in the West Bank and Gaza.

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