WASHINGTON – Israel's use of American-made weapons in attacks that killed civilians is under review by the Bush administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday.
He gave no indication that Israel's use of a U.S.-made F-16 jet fighter to execute a Hamas leader violated U.S. law, which specifies the weapons may be used only in self-defense.
Fourteen other Palestinians, including nine children, died in the attack early Tuesday.
Powell said the administration was concerned about the loss of human life and about targeting an individual in a densely populated area.
"We are constantly reviewing the manner in which equipment provided to the government of Israel is used," Powell said.
Israel also was looking into the strike, including how it was planned and how it was directed, Powell said at the State Department.
"We are not seeing this is a legal issue," said department spokesman Richard Boucher. "We're not trying to find legalistic technicalities to hang Israel on, or its lawyers on."
Targeted attacks do not contribute to Israel's security, he said. "We're looking for ways of contributing to Israel's security and help Israel achieve what it wants, and help the Palestinians achieve their legitimate aspirations, as well."
Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. It has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings.
Powell spoke about the Israeli attacks just a few minutes after expressing regret over the killing of Afghan civilians in a U.S. airstrike in Uruzgan province in early July.
"These things do happen in times of conflict, but nevertheless, the loss of life touches us all very deeply," Powell said while expressing regret to visiting Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah.
The dead included 25 members of an extended family celebrating a wedding in the village of Kakarak.
Israel's target Tuesday was Salah Shehadeh, head of the military wing of Hamas. Israeli officials said he was planning another attack.
The attack prompted an international outcry, with critics accusing the United States of complicity because the F-16 is American-made.
Boucher said Wednesday there was no basis for reporting to Congress that an American weapon had been used illegally. He said the United States would monitor Israel's actions.
"We urge Israel to consider consequences of actions such as these," he said, apparently referring to a negative impact on prospects for peacemaking.