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State Dept. to miss report deadline on Israel's use of US weapons

The report to Congress required under NSM-20 is expected in the coming days.
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from a border position in southern Israel toward the Gaza Strip on May 8, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the Hamas movement.

WASHINGTON — After a “brief delay,” the State Department will soon deliver its report to Congress on whether Israel is using US-supplied weapons in compliance with international humanitarian law, a spokesperson said Wednesday. 

The department will miss its May 8 deadline to submit the report required under a national security memorandum, known as NSM-20, that President Joe Biden issued in February. 

The memorandum requires the Secretary of State to obtain “credible and reliable” written assurances from all recipients of US weapons that they will be used in accordance with international law. The recipient counties must also provide assurances that they will “not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede” the delivery of US humanitarian assistance.

“We have taken this incredibly seriously, and we will have it up in the coming days,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Wednesday. 

“It is also important that we get this right, that we do a thorough job,” Miller added. “This is the first time the department has conducted such an exercise, and so we are taking all deliberate care to make sure that we get everything absolutely correct.” 

The report to Congress comes as Israel this week seized control of the Rafah border crossing in Gaza in what the Israeli military has called a limited operation in the Strip's southernmost city. The Biden administration has warned that an offensive in Rafah could cause mass casualties among the more than 1.4 million Palestinians sheltering in the packed city on Egypt’s border.

The Biden administration last week paused a planned shipment of air-to-ground munitions over concerns that Israel was nearing a military incursion into Rafah without a credible plan to protect civilians, a senior administration official confirmed to Al-Monitor on Tuesday.

“We have paused one shipment of near-term assistance, and we are reviewing others. But that said, our long-term commitment to Israel's security has not changed,” Miller said.