Call to Halt Arms Transfers in Israel-Palestine Conflict

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Israel’s allies and countries that support Palestinian armed groups should suspend arms transfers to belligerents in Israel and Gaza, given the real risk that these weapons will be used to commit serious abuses, Human Rights Watch said. Today. Countries that provide weapons that are proven to contribute significantly to illegal attacks risk being complicit in war crimes.

Israel and Palestinian armed groups have committed serious abuses amounting to war crimes during the current hostilities. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups deliberately killed hundreds of civilians in Israel on October 7, and took more than 200 hostages. Israel then cut off access to electricity, fuel, food and water in Gaza and deprived its population of vital humanitarian aid; these acts constitute a form of collective punishment.

“Civilians are being punished and killed on a scale unprecedented in recent Israeli and Palestinian history,” said Bruno Stagno, senior advocacy manager at Human Rights Watch. “The United States, Iran and other countries risk being complicit in serious abuses if they continue to provide military assistance to forces responsible for proven violations of the laws of war. »

Israel’s main allies – the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and others – should suspend military aid and arms sales to Israel as long as its forces continue to commit crimes with impunity serious and widespread abuses against Palestinian civilians constituting war crimes. Iran and other countries should stop supplying weapons to Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as long as they continue to systematically commit attacks against Israeli civilians that also amount to war crimes.

Since October 7, around 1,400 Israelis and citizens of other countries, as well as more than 9,700 Palestinians, including many civilians, have been killed according to local authorities.

During the current hostilities, Israeli forces have collectively punished civilians in Gaza by depriving them of water, electricity and food, and have deliberately prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Israeli forces have also repeatedly used explosive weapons with a wide impact radius in densely populated areas, reducing blocks of houses and large parts of neighborhoods to rubble; this raises deep concerns about the use of indiscriminate attacks. Israeli forces have indiscriminately used white phosphorus munitions, an incendiary material that burns human flesh and can cause lifelong suffering, in populated areas of Gaza and Lebanon. Amnesty International also verified photos showing M825 series 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles used by Israeli forces near the Lebanese border and Gaza border fences.

The Israeli army also ordered more than a million residents of northern Gaza to evacuate this area targeted by military operations and head towards the south of the territory, despite the absence of safe havens in the south. , and safe means of travel across the Gaza Strip. These general warnings, rather than specific warnings of imminent attacks, suggest that any location in northern Gaza is at risk of being the target of an Israeli military attack. The evacuation order risks causing massive forced displacement, which constitutes a war crime. Israel has also closed its border crossings to anyone seeking to flee.

For their part, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have deliberately killed civilians, taken civilians hostage and continue to detain them, and fired thousands of rockets against Israeli communities; All of these acts constitute war crimes.

The leaders of Israel and Palestinian armed groups have issued statements indicating that serious abuses by their respective forces will continue. Israeli officials have sought to hold the entire population of Gaza responsible for the October 7 attack; one minister said that “there is no reason” to provide humanitarian aid to the civilian population “until we eliminate” Hamas. A spokesperson for the military branch of Hamas threatened to broadcast “in sound and video […] the execution of one of the civilian hostages” kidnapped from the “enemy” country.

Future arms transfers to Israel by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, in the context of serious and continuing violations of the laws of war, would risk making these countries complicit in these abuses. they were knowingly and significantly contributing to it, Human Rights Watch said. Likewise, providing weapons to Palestinian armed groups, given the persistence of their illegal attacks, risks making Iran complicit in these violations.

The current abuses follow years of systematic violations, including illegal airstrikes against Gaza carried out by Israeli forces, indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian communities in Israel by Palestinian armed groups, and crimes against humanity by apartheid and persecution committed by Israel in a context of impunity.

US President Joseph R. Biden has asked Congress to approve additional arms sales to Israel, amounting to $14.3 billion, beyond the $3.8 billion in annual military aid that the United States already provides to this country. On November 2, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide this military aid to Israel. Since October 7, the United States has delivered or announced its intention to deliver to Israel small diameter bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) guidance kits, artillery shells of 155 mm and a million rounds of ammunition, among other weapons.

Since 2015, the UK has approved arms export licenses to Israeli forces – including planes, bombs and munitions – worth £442 million (around US$539 million). Canada exported arms worth C$47 million ($33 million) to Israel in 2021 and 2022. Germany issued licenses for arms sales to Israel worth a total of 862 million euros (approximately 916 million US dollars), between 2015 and 2019.

Hamas leaders publicly stated in January 2022 that they had received at least $70 million in military assistance from Iran, although they did not specify during which period this support was provided.

“How many more civilian lives must be lost, and how many more civilians must suffer because of war crimes, before countries that supply weapons to Israel and Palestinian armed groups stop doing so, and thus avoid make them complicit in these atrocities? », asked Bruno Stagno.

This article is originally published on hrw.org

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