WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For the first time, the Bush administration is expressing
concern about Israel's use of U.S.-supplied weapons -- in light of Israel's recent
attack in Gaza that killed 15 Palestinians, including a Hamas military commander.
Under U.S. law, weapons are sold to other nations only for self-defense.
At a U.S. State Department briefing on Wednesday, spokesman Richard Boucher said, "There are provisions of the Arms Export Control Act that require making a report to Congress anytime there might have been a substantial violation of the terms of sale of such weapons."
Boucher, responding to a question about Tuesday's Israeli military action, suggested the circumstances may trigger a review. "We have not made a report like this since the current violence began, but we have made quite clear that we are seriously concerned with some of the Israeli tactics, some of the Israeli actions, including targeting killings and actions like this that endanger civilians," Boucher said.
Last week the Pentagon notified Congress it was planning to sell Israel 1,000 bombs known as Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The "J-DAM" is a 2,000 pound, precision guided weapon, launched by the type of F-16 aircraft that was used in the Gaza attack.
The United States already has supplied Israel with 700 JDAM bombs, and the Israeli military flies U.S.-made F-16s and Apache anti-tank helicopters.
The Pentagon refuses to say whether that proposed sale might now be reconsidered, but Boucher's remarks are viewed as pressure on Israel to understand that the United States is opposed to the Israelis' airstrike on Gaza.
Tuesday's Israeli airstrike on an apartment building in Gaza City killed Hamas military commander Salah Shehade and 14 others. About 150 people were injured in the attack, according to Palestine Red Crescent Society and Hamas. Israeli officials have said they did not know civilians were in the target area at the time of the nighttime airstrike. Shehade was high on Israel's most wanted terrorist list.
The U.S. State Department has labeled Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group, a terrorist organization. Its military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.
Meanwhile, CNN has learned that Israeli military officials had privately assured
U.S. military officials that they took care not to target civilians.
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