Trucks carrying aid supplies to Gaza
Trucks carrying aid supplies to Gaza are seen at the Karem Abu Salem border crossing on February 17, 2024.
(Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Leaked USAID Document Concludes Israel Impeded Gaza Aid

"Biden is breaking the law and defying his own agencies to fund Israeli war crimes," said one observer.

Officials at the United States Agency for International Development concluded in a confidential memo to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel is violating a White House directive by blocking humanitarian aid from entering the besieged Gaza Strip during its ongoing genocidal assault on the Palestinian enclave, according to a report published Friday.

Devex's Colum Lynch reported that the confidential communication—entitled Famine Inevitable, Changes Could Reduce But Not Stop Widespread Civilian Deaths—states that USAID "assesses the government of Israel (GOI) does not currently demonstrate necessary compliance" with a February 8 White House memo requiring the secretary of state to obtain assurances from governments receiving U.S. military aid that such assistance is used in compliance with human rights law.

The USAID memo raises "serious concerns that the killing of nearly 32,000 people, of which the GOI itself assesses roughly two-thirds are civilians, may well amount to a violation of the international humanitarian law." That figure is now over 34,300 deaths, with at least 77,293 people injured and over 11,000 others missing and presumed buried beneath the rubble of hundreds of thousands of bombed-out buildings.

The document states that the "deterioration of food security and nutrition in Gaza is unprecedented in modern history, exponentially outpacing in six months the long-term declines that led to the only other two famine declarations in the 21st century: Somalia (2011) and South Sudan (2017)."

"Adequate health, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene... an immediate cessation of hostilities, and sustained humanitarian access will be required," the memo continues. "Absent these conditions, all available evidence indicates rising acute food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease will lead to a rapid increase in non-trauma deaths, particularly among women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities."

During congressional testimony earlier this month, USAID Administrator Samantha Power answered in the affirmative when U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) asked whether "famine is already occurring" in Gaza.

"Yes," she said. "In northern Gaza, the rate of malnutrition prior to October 7 was almost zero, and it is now one in three—one in three kids."

Biden's February directive states that "the recipient country will facilitate and not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance."

Not only has Israel blocked aid from entering Gaza as children there die of malnutrition and dehydration and millions teeter on the brink of starvation, Israeli troops have attacked Palestinian and international humanitarian workers attempting to deliver aid and desperate Gazans trying to receive it.

Observers say these attacks—which include the infamous " Flour Massacre" and the drone strikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen staffers—were deliberate, which Israel denies.

The blocking of humanitarian aid is a key component of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide case against Israel brought by South Africa and supported by more than 30 nations. On January 26, the ICJ issued a preliminary ruling that found Israel is "plausibly" committing genocide in Gaza and ordered it to prevent future genocidal acts. Critics argue Israel has ignored the order.

According to Lynch:

The paper was cleared by 10 USAID officials, underscoring its widespread backing of the findings. But Sonali Korde, the agency's deputy assistant administrator and head of the Bureau for Humanitarian Affairs, signed off on the document with the phrase INFO, bureaucratic shorthand for passing it up the chain of command without committing to its conclusions. Blinken is required to formally certify to Congress in the coming weeks whether Israel complies with the White House determination.

Last month, the Biden administration said that Israel's use of U.S.-supplied weapons complies with international law, an assessment lambasted by many observers including Palestinian American political analyst Yousef Munayyer, who called it "absolutely scandalous."

Palestinian and human rights advocates and more than two dozen congressional Democrats have challenged the Biden administration's claim that Israel is using U.S.-supplied weapons in compliance with domestic and international law, pointing to the use of 2,000-pound bombs—which can wipe out an entire city block—in densely populated areas and other potentially illegal actions. In December, Biden acknowledged that Israel's bombing was "indiscriminate."

Critics including progressive members of Congress have called for an arms embargo on Israel. However, Biden this week signed the biggest-ever U.S. aid package for Israel and has repeatedly bypassed Congress to fast-track armed assistance to the key ally—which already receives nearly $4 billion in U.S. military aid annually. The Biden administration has also quietly approved more than 100 arms sales to Israel since October.

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