Cardin: Israel military aid should continue, though war conduct report ‘raised concerns’

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, said military aid to Israel should continue, through the war conduct report released by the State Department on Friday “raised concerns.”

Cardin’s remarks on transferring military aid to Israel are different than that of the White House, as President Biden withheld sending over some bombs to the U.S. ally last week and said earlier this week the U.S. would stop supplying weapons like artillery shells and bombs if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) goes forward with a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah, the city in the south of the Gaza Strip where over a million are sheltering.

Despite having a different stance on weapons transfers, the Maryland senator acknowledged the “concerns” the war conduct report released on Friday, which found it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel, in its war operation in Gaza, violated international humanitarian law.

The assessment did not definitively find the country breaching laws in the report, with U.S. officials acknowledging that it was “difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents.”

“While the most recent report regarding Israel under the NSM-20 has raised concerns, I agree with its assessment that Israel has not violated International Humanitarian Law and that military assistance to support Israel’s security remains in the U.S. interest and should continue,” Cardin said in a statement following the release of the report on Friday.

“In this regard, I differ with President Biden’s recent decision,” he said.

The Foreign Relations Commitee chairman stated that Israel, which is currently ordering new evacuations in Rafah and is expanding its operation in the area, should not perform the full-scale incursion into the city in the south of Gaza without having a plan to safely evacuate civilians.

“Going into Rafah without a credible plan to deal with the humanitarian situation is not the right way,” Cardin said. “Any operation must take all measures to protect civilian lives. There must be safe passage for innocent civilians currently displaced inside Rafah.

He stressed that aid for Gazans needs to flow without delays as the population already faces a humanitarian crisis.

“They need to have the necessary food, water, shelter, medical care, and all other humanitarian provisions,” he said. “It is in the interest of Israel and the US that there be sustained, effective humanitarian assistance available to those at risk in Gaza, and it needs to be provided without delay or interruption.”

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