Dems Propose Amendment To Israel Aid Conditions

Senator Elizabeth Warren and other progressive Senate Democrats last week urged the Biden administration to increase oversight on the use of US weapons by the Israeli military in Gaza to reduce the number of civilian deaths, The Hill reported.

In a December 5 letter to President Biden, the senators expressed concern over the IDF using 155-mm artillery shells near densely populated areas in Gaza. The shells, which are unguided explosives with a kill radius of between 100-300 meters, have been used in heavily populated areas, including near “hospitals, schools, shelters and safe zones,” the letter said.

The senators noted that over 30 US civil and human rights groups had warned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about providing the artillery shells to Israel.

The lawmakers also circulated the letter among their Senate colleagues last Wednesday before a key procedural vote to begin debate on the emergency aid package that includes $14 billion for Israel.

In the letter, the senators cite press reports indicating that the Pentagon sent only one Marine general to advise Israel on mitigating civilian casualties.

The senators argue that preventing harm to civilians “is a cornerstone of American foreign policy” and that international law and US policy require that any US weapons transferred to a foreign country must be “used in a manner consistent with protecting civilian lives.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is one of the lawmakers who signed Senator Warren’s letter, has already indicated that he would oppose further aid to Israel without including conditions to limit the number of civilian casualties.

On December 7, 13 progressive senators introduced an amendment to the aid package directing the president to report to Congress in 30 days as to whether the countries receiving aid are “fully cooperating” with the US and international efforts to “provide humanitarian assistance to civilians.”

The amendment would also require the president to report to Congress on whether the countries receiving military aid are acting under international law and that the weapons supplied are being used for their “intended purposes.”