Blinken denies US applies double standard to alleged Israeli rights abuses

Blinken denies US applies double standard to alleged Israeli rights abuses

WASHINGTON (Reuters): U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday denied that Washington has a “double standard” when applying U.S. law to allegations of abuses by the Israeli military in Gaza and said that examinations of such charges are ongoing.

“In general, as we’re looking at human rights and the condition of human rights around the world, we apply the same standard to everyone,” Blinken told a briefing at which he unveiled the State Department’s annual human rights report.

“That doesn’t change whether the country is an adversary, a competitor, a friend or an ally,” he continued.

The war between Israel and Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza has had “a significant negative impact” on the human rights situation in Israel, according to the report.

Significant human rights issues include credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture and unjustified arrests of journalists among others, said the report covering 2023.

It added that the Israeli government had taken some credible steps to identify and punish the officials who may have been involved in those abuses.

Israel’s military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces have killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities, many of them civilians and children. The Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine.

Israel launched its assault in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed.

Israel has denied allegations of deliberately causing humanitarian suffering in the enclave. It denies deliberately targeting civilians, accusing Hamas of using residential buildings for cover. Hamas denies this.

Rights groups have flagged numerous incidents of civilian harm during the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, as well as raised alarm about rising violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian Health Ministry records show Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 460 Palestinians since Oct. 7. But so far the Biden administration has said it has not found Israel in breach of international law.