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Human rights groups urge top US lawmaker to block Israel arms deal

Human rights and press freedom groups have urged US Congressman and the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Gregory Meeks, to advance a push to block a $735m arms deal to the occupation state of ‘Israel’, after the Israeli military targeted a building housing media offices in Gaza.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced legislation to suspend the deal earlier this week.

The bill has so far acquird 14 co-sponsors. Bernie Sanders has also introduced the resolution in the Senate.

The House measure will not advance even for a debate without the approval of Meeks.

“Freedom of the press is an essential human right. The Israeli military’s bombing of international press offices actively interfered with the ability of journalists to document the situation on the ground in Gaza, including their ability to document human rights abuses and potential war crimes,” the groups said in a joint statement on Thursday.

“Especially in light of numerous reports of social media censorship targeting Palestinians, it’s crucial that reporters in Gaza are able to do their jobs safely and without military interference.”

The rights groups included Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press Foundation, MediaJustice, MPower Change and National Lawyers Guild.

“The US government should not be selling weapons to a government that has shown repeatedly it will use them to attack media outlets and journalists,” the groups added.

“As Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep Gregory Meeks must allow a vote on the proposal to halt the arms deal. If he fails to do so, he’s actively working against freedom of the press, democracy, and human rights around the globe.”

During the 11-day of Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, Israel destroyed nine multi-story buildings, claiming they were being used as “military infrastructure”.

On May 15, Israeli air strikes levelled the al-Jalaa tower, an 11-storey building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, and the Associated Press in the Gaza Strip.

The bombing of this tower drew criticism from international organisations, rights groups and several governments, including those of Israel’s allies.

On May 17, leading rights group Amnesty International condemned Israel’s continuing assault on Gaza, saying that the Israeli military has “displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings in some cases killing entire families – including children – and causing wanton destruction to civilian property, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”.

At least 279 Palestinians were killed, including 69 children and 40 women, and 1,910 others injured in the recent Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The United States provides $3.8bn in military aid to Israel annually.

Last week, reports emerged that Meeks would request a pause on the arms deal to allow for a congressional review.

But the following day he confirmed that he would not oppose the deal, saying that “Israel has every right to defend itself”.

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