Powell: Israeli Use of US-Made Weapons Not Illegal

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State Colin Powell has voiced the administration's opinion that Israel's use of American-made weapons in the targeted killings of Palestinians does not violate any sales agreements between Israel and the U.S.

Israel has come under heavy condemnation for its use of U.S.-manufactured fighter planes and helicopters in the 11-month-old conflict with the Palestinians.

Some U.S. Congressmen have expressed concern that Israel's use of heavy weapons, particularly in operations designed to "intercept" key militant figures violates the Arms Export Control Act, which requires that U.S.-made weapons be used only for "legitimate self-defense."

Washington has repeatedly condemned the policy of targeted killings and urged restraint, but stopped short of criticizing Israel's use of the weapons. State Department spokesmen have said that the issue was being monitored.

In a response to a letter from Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) to President Bush, Powell wrote that under the AECA, the U.S. is required to obtain an agreement that the "defense articles will be used only for specified purposes, including internal security and legitimate self defense."

"Under section 3c, a report must be submitted to Congress if a substantial violation of such an agreement may have occurred," Powell wrote. "Based on our assessment of the totality of the underlying facts and circumstances, we believe that a report under section 3c of the AECA is not required."

The U.S. has been "monitoring Israeli actions carefully and will continue to do so," he added.

The PA has accused Israel of killing some 60 Palestinians in targeted attacks since the beginning of the uprising. Most of them were militants wanted by Israel, but some innocent bystanders were killed, too.

Israel insists that its actions are purely defensive, intended to intercept terrorists before they have a chance to strike.