The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is deeply disappointed by the Biden Administration’s National Security Memorandum 20 assessment that the Israeli government is not restricting humanitarian assistance. This ignores the core concerns and experience of over 20 humanitarian organizations operating on the ground in Gaza. 

The U.S. conclusion is based on the assertion that aid flows have substantially increased in recent weeks. Yet in the past month, an average of 200 aid trucks per day entered Gaza – more than 60% lower than the pre-October level. During that same period, more than one in three requested aid missions to northern Gaza – where famine is imminent – were denied or impeded by Israeli authorities, preventing onward distribution of aid to all people in need. In recent days, as Israel began a military incursion into part of Rafah, no aid has been allowed to enter through either of the two crossings into Rafah despite worsening needs inside. 

The report finds that U.S.-origin Israeli systems are “likely to have been involved in incidents that raise concerns about Israel’s IHL compliance”. The report also notes it is “reasonable to assess that defense articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.” The IRC urges the Biden administration to heed its own findings and immediately cease the transfer of arms to Israel which risk being used to commit violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza. 

Today, two million civilians in Gaza suffer from hunger and displacement. Their protection remains the responsibility of all parties to the conflict. With nowhere safe inside Gaza left to go, the IRC urges the US Government to use all of its influence for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, the release of all hostages, and humanitarian aid at the scale and pace desperately needed to meet the moment. 

IRC Vice President of Advocacy, Flora Alexander, said:

“The Biden Administration National Security Memorandum 20 assessment fails to acknowledge what humanitarians on the ground in Gaza are telling them: that aid is still being consistently impeded by the Israeli authorities. If humanitarian aid was flowing unhindered and at scale, one million people would not be in famine conditions and the U.S. government would not be engaging in last resort options like air drops or expensive maritime routes.

For over three months, the IRC has sought clarity on the Israeli airstrike on our IRC-MAP joint compound that used a U.S.-manufactured plane and bomb. It is one of thousands of attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Gaza deserving of answers. 

Recent warnings from President Biden that he will halt U.S. weapons to Israel if an offensive on Rafah moves forward are welcome, as was last week’s decision to stop a specific shipment of bombs. Given the administration’s National Security Memorandum 20 assessment that security forces in Israel have inflicted harm on civilians using U.S.-provided equipment, in a manner inconsistent with its IHL obligations, the case to now halt all offensive weapons transfers is clear." 

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