Human rights groups demand Biden stop arms transfers to Israel after ICJ ruling | Gaza News

Human rights groups have renewed their calls for US President Joe Biden to stop arms transfers to Israel, after the United Nations top court ordered the Israeli government to immediately stop its ground offensive in the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza, and allow aid to enter the area.

The United States has faced months of pressure to suspend military assistance to Israel as the Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip steadily rose and the humanitarian crisis deepened across the besieged enclave.

Biden himself has publicly opposed Israel’s offensive in Rafah – where most of Gaza’s displaced residents had gathered – and his administration suspended a weapons shipment to Israel over his concerns.

However, despite saying in early May that he would withhold more weapons if the country went ahead with a large-scale operation in Rafah, Biden has largely refrained from using that influence as Israeli leaders rejected warnings from Washington.

On Friday, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), said the International Court of Justice order “leaves no ambiguity about what should follow: an arms embargo on Israel.”

“Continued transfers of American weapons to Israel would constitute a deliberate defiance of the Court’s orders and would make our government complicit in genocide,” he said in a statement.

Citing the “immense risk” to Palestinians in Gaza, the ICJ said Israel must “immediately stop its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governorate, which could inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza living conditions that could lead to its destruction.” physical”. total or partial destruction.”

Friday’s order does not offer a final determination on whether Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, as alleged by South Africa, which brought the case to the international court.

Still, the court’s interim ruling “opens the possibility of relief” for the people of Rafah, said Balkees Jarrah, associate director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“But only if governments use their influence, including through arms embargoes and targeted sanctions, to force Israel to urgently comply with the court’s measures,” Jarrah said.

Human rights observers also noted that the ruling creates a basis for the UN Security Council to take more decisive action against Israel.

The United States – one of five veto-wielding council members – has repeatedly protected Israel from Security Council action since the Gaza war began in early October.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, director of Israel-Palestine research at DAWN, said the ICJ ruling should prompt the United States to “support any action by the UNSC to enforce the Court’s order,” or risk appearing “again before the entire world as the guarantor of Israeli sovereignty.” impunity”.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, also urged Biden to honor the ICJ ruling by “immediately ending all military assistance to Israel’s genocide.”

“Israel is clearly trying to make Gaza uninhabitable. “We must prevent him from completing this monstrous objective,” Awad said in a statement.

Bipartisan support for Israel

Israel continues to enjoy broad support among senior officials in the Biden administration, including the US president himself, as well as lawmakers from both major parties.

Still, a growing number of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have demanded a clearer explanation of whether Israel is using American weapons in Gaza in violation of American and international law.

Israel’s bombing of Gaza has killed more than 35,500 Palestinians, most of them women and children, while its siege of the coastal territory has caused severe shortages of humanitarian aid and pushed Palestinians to the brink of famine.

“The entire world is taking action to stop the genocide of the Palestinians, including the International Court of Justice,” US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a member of Biden’s Democratic Party, wrote on X on Friday.

“Where is President Biden’s ‘red line’?” she said.

Earlier this month, the US State Department released a report that found it “reasonable to assess” that Israeli forces had used US weapons in violation of international humanitarian law in Gaza.

But the department said that did not necessarily refute Israel’s “general commitment” to those standards, and the report concluded that the United States could continue to send weapons to Israel.

The Biden administration did not immediately comment on Friday’s ICJ order or new calls to suspend arms transfers to Israel.

James Bays, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, said the court’s ruling creates a difficult situation for the US government as it is in line with Biden’s recent positions.

“The Biden administration has repeatedly said that it is necessary to open the Rafah crossing. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it did not want an offensive in Rafah,” Bays noted.

“So the court just completely endorses what the US administration has been saying,” he said. “It’s going to be very, very difficult for the Biden administration to say that this is in any way biased.”

However, prominent Republican lawmakers were quick to condemn the ICJ order on Friday, with some calling on Biden to reject efforts to get Israel to respect the decision.

“The ICJ is blinded by anti-Israel bias,” Steve Scalise, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, wrote on social media. “Biden must commit to veto any UN Security Council resolution that imposes this outrageous decision.”

US Senator Lindsey Graham also said that “the ICJ can go to hell.”

“It is time to stand up to these so-called international justice organizations associated with the UN. Your anti-Israel bias is overwhelming,” he wrote in X. “This will and should be ignored by Israel.”

Graham is among several US lawmakers who have urged the Biden administration to impose sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the court’s top prosecutor this week requested arrest warrants for senior Israeli leaders for alleged war crimes in Loop.

Biden called the prosecutor’s action “outrageous,” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested the administration would be willing to work with members of Congress on legislation to penalize the international court.

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