US State Department falsifies report to cover up sabotage of ‘humanitarian aid’

Israeli settlers block the road in front of aid trucks

The US State Department falsified a report earlier this month to exonerate Israel from blame for obstructing humanitarian aid to Gaza, contradicting its own experts, according to a former senior US official who resigned last week.

Stacy Gilbert, who left her role as senior civil-military adviser in the State Department’s bureau of population, refugees, and migration last Tuesday, was among the experts who drafted the report mandated under National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20), published on 10 May.

The NSM-20 report found it ‘reasonable to assess’ that Israel had used US weapons in ways ‘inconsistent’ with international humanitarian law but lacked concrete evidence linking specific US-supplied weapons to violations.

Controversially, the report claimed the State Department did not ‘currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of US humanitarian assistance’ in Gaza.

This judgement was critical because under a clause in the Foreign Assistance Act, the US would be required to halt arms sales and security assistance to any country found to have obstructed the delivery of US aid.

Gilbert, a 20-year veteran of the State Department with experience in several war zones, asserted that the report’s conclusion contradicted the overwhelming consensus among State Department experts.

She noted that while other factors, such as lack of security due to Hamas and Israeli military operations, impeded aid flow into Gaza, it was evident that Israel was limiting the amount of food and medical supplies crossing the border.

Gilbert said: ‘There is consensus among the humanitarian community on that.

‘It is absolutely the opinion of the humanitarian subject matter experts in the State Department, and not just in my bureau – people who look at this from the intelligence community and from other bureaus.

‘I would be very hard pressed to think of anyone who has said Israeli obstruction is not an issue,’ Gilbert stated. ‘That’s why I object to that report saying that Israel is not blocking humanitarian assistance. That is patently false.’

The State Department did not respond last Thursday to a media request for comment on Gilbert’s remarks.

Gilbert was among the experts consulted in preparing the NSM-20 report but said it was taken out of their hands as it neared completion.

Gilbert said: ‘Sometime at the end of April, the subject matter experts were taken off the report and we were told it would be edited at a higher level.

‘So I did not know what was in the report until it came out,’ she said. ‘But when the report came out, late on the Friday afternoon, on 10th May, I read it and I had to reread it.

‘I had to go back and print out that section and read it, because I could not believe it stated so starkly that we assess that Israel is not blocking humanitarian assistance.

‘Two hours after it was released, I sent an email to my front office and the team that is working on this, saying I will resign as a result of this,’ Gilbert said.

Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen commented that the NSM-20 report ‘should have been based on an unvarnished assessment of the facts and law’.

He added, ‘Stacy Gilbert’s statements further corroborate the concerns I have expressed that the findings of the bureaus and experts most involved with the distribution of aid and compliance with international law were bypassed in favour of political convenience.’

Gilbert was one of two US officials to resign last week over the Biden administration’s Gaza policy.

Alexander Smith, a contractor for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), resigned last Monday after being given the choice between resignation and dismissal following the cancellation of his presentation on maternal and child mortality among Palestinians by the USAID leadership.

Smith, a senior adviser on gender, maternal health, child health, and nutrition, chose to resign last Monday after four years at USAID.

In his resignation letter to the head of the agency, Samantha Power, he criticised the inconsistencies in USAID’s approach to different countries and humanitarian crises, and the general treatment of Palestinians.

‘I cannot do my job in an environment in which specific people cannot be acknowledged as fully human, or where gender and human rights principles apply to some, but not to others, depending on their race,’ he wrote.

Smith and Gilbert are among nine Biden administration officials who have publicly resigned over US policy on Gaza, although Josh Paul, the first official to resign, noted that at least two dozen more had left quietly, without public declarations.

‘I’m aware that there are other resignations pending in the near future from officials with similar concerns in their own areas of work,’ said Paul, now a senior adviser at Dawn, a group advocating democracy and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa.

Asked about Smith’s resignation, a USAID official stated the agency could not discuss ‘specific personnel matters and why this individual is no longer employed by their contractor for USAID’.

‘Hundreds of staff across the agency are working tirelessly to accelerate aid, to advocate for greater protections for civilians and the improvement of deconfliction, and to advance diplomatic efforts,’ a USAID spokesperson said.

‘Additionally, agency leadership continues to engage candidly with staff about USAID’s work and perspectives on the conflict through a range of meetings, town halls, and other forums.’

The resignations have come as famine spreads in Gaza, with only a trickle of humanitarian aid arriving through land crossings controlled by Israel, and the collapse of a US-made pier intended for food deliveries, which was severely damaged by a Mediterranean storm last week.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his war cabinet, have defied Biden by pursuing an offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the Israeli assault.

Over 900,000 of them have been forced to flee from the bombing once more in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, in a significant escalation of regional tensions, the Yemen-based Houthi movement has claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a US aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, marking a direct retaliation against recent US and British airstrikes in Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthis have announced they launched a missile attack on a United States aircraft carrier in the Red Sea, responding to deadly US and British strikes on Yemen. Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree confirmed the attack on the Eisenhower carrier on Friday.

Earlier, the group reported that at least 16 people were killed in US and UK assaults on the Hodeidah province, marking the highest publicly acknowledged death toll from multiple rounds of strikes following the group’s assault on shipping.

The aftermath of Thursday’s attacks was broadcast on Al Masirah television, a Houthi-controlled channel, which aired footage appearing to show wounded civilians receiving treatment in Hodeidah. Reports indicated at least 42 individuals were injured.

‘The American-British aggression will not prevent us from continuing our military operations in support of Palestine,’ declared Houthi official Mohammed al-Bukhaiti on X (formerly Twitter), cautioning that the rebels would ‘meet escalation with escalation’.

Since January, the United States and the United Kingdom have conducted retaliatory strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen to curb their ability to disrupt crucial waterways.

However, these efforts have shown limited success in deterring the Houthis.

Last Wednesday, the Houthis claimed responsibility for attacking a Greek-owned bulk carrier and several other vessels in retaliation for Israeli strikes on the southern Gaza city of Rafah.