Europe ‘aiding and assisting’ Israel’s war in Gaza with key weapons


BRUSSELS — In a recent four-page letter, ex-UN official Craig Mokhiber criticized the international community for failing to stop a “genocide unfolding before our eyes” in Gaza.

The US human rights lawyer accused the US, UK and much of Europe of being “wholly complicit in the horrific assault” on the Palestinian enclave by Israeli forces, which began on 7 October when Hamas killed more than 1,400 people in southern Israel.

Israel has retaliated with unrelenting strikes on Gaza and poured in troops and tanks, killing more than 9,000 so far, say Palestinian authorities.

Now information shared with Euronews shows European states are likely “aiding and assisting” Israel’s offensive directly.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) provided data on arms sales from Europe to Israel between 2013 to 2022, showing Italy and Germany had supplied Israel’s military with crucial weapons and equipment it was now using on the ground in Gaza.

The UK, meanwhile, has lucrative deals supplying the Israeli Air Force, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

However, the group told Euronews that opaque licensing arrangements mean it can be hard to determine exactly what has been transferred.

SIPRI, an independent research institute based in Sweden, detailed that Germany had sent more than 1,000 tank engines to Israel.

Under an export licence from 2000, it claimed they were used in Merkava-4 tanks and Namer armoured personnel carriers (APC). German-made diesel engines are also used in the Eitan fighter vehicle produced in Israel.

“By our estimates, some of these are probably ready for use on the ground in Gaza,” SIPRI researcher Zain Hussain told Euronews.

Over the past decade, the institute said Germany has supplied – and partially funded with taxpayer’s money – Dolphin-class submarines and Sa’ar corvettes for Israel’s navy, though they are kitted out with Israeli guns and missiles.

Of the ships, Hussain says “some have been taken into service [and] probably used for shelling targets in Gaza.”

“Germany has funded part of the Israeli procurement of submarines and corvettes as a form of military aid to Israel, to support Israel in its defence and in a sort of compensation for Nazi crimes,” he added in a statement sent to Euronews.

Significant defence industrial cooperation exists between Germany and Israel, including in the development of missiles and other munitions, involving companies like Rheinmetall, MBDA Deutschland and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann – among others, says SIPRI.

In October, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told his country’s parliament he had offered military help to Israel.

“At this moment, there is only one place for Germany – the place at Israel’s side,” he told lawmakers. “Our own history, our responsibility arising from the Holocaust, makes it a perpetual task for us to stand up for the security of the state of Israel.”

While on a smaller scale than Germany, Italy has supplied parts for training and combat aircraft, including the M-346 Master and AW-119 light helicopter, according to SIPRI.

Though Rome has not yet promised military support for Israel, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her support for and closeness to the Israeli population, following Hamas’ attack.

Between 2013 and 2022, Italian companies sold armaments worth almost €120 million to Israel: on average around €12 million per year, according to Pagella Politica.

Data shared with Euronews by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) shows the UK is a notable supplier of arms to Israel, too.

It provides components that make up 15% of the F-35 stealth combat aircraft that are currently being used by Israel to relentlessly bomb Gaza, hitting schools, hospitals and residential areas.

They “conservatively” estimated this trade is worth £336 million (€386 million) since 2016.

However, the group said the “most significant” exports are via open licences, which make it difficult to determine exactly what is being transferred due to their “lack of transparency”.

CAAT pointed to several “concerning” open licences that “could easily involve” military items that might be used in Gaza, such as equipment, software and technology for combat aircraft and helicopters, plus components for artillery, naval guns and combat vessels, missile and munitions equipment and military radars.

“Arms sales to Israel need to be halted immediately,” said Emily Apple, CAAT’s Media Coordinator in a statement sent to Euronews.

“Israel is committing war crimes against the Palestinian people in its ongoing siege and bombardment of Gaza, causing a humanitarian catastrophe and killing thousands of civilians.”

Sending vital parts that enable Israel’s bombing campaign, she claimed the UK government and industry were “complicit in these war crimes.”

In a statement sent to Euronews, Amnesty International said it had long called for a “comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”

“We have adopted this position due to patterns of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law stretching back years over many conflicts,” Patrick Wilcken, a researcher on military, security and policing issues at Amnesty International, told Euronews.

He said Amnesty has documented evidence of war crimes by Israeli forces, as well as Hamas and other armed groups.

Regarding Israeli forces, this included “failing to take feasible precautions to spare civilians, carrying out indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between civilians and military objectives, or carrying out attacks that may have been directed against civilian objects,” according to Wilcken.

Hamas has committed “mass summary killings, hostage-taking, and launching indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel,” he added.

Sending military equipment to Israel contravenes EU policy necessitating “respect for human rights in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country of international humanitarian law,” says Amnesty.

Articles 6 and 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty also bar transfers where there is an overriding risk arms could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

“States which continue to transfer arms to Israel or Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups with knowledge that the recipient state or group is using these arms to commit “internationally wrongful acts” – which include crimes under international law such as war crimes and crimes against humanity – are themselves at risk of aiding and assisting in those wrongs,” added Wilcken. — Euronews

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