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Last update - 10:45 23/02/2009
Amnesty International urges freeze on arms sales to Israel
By Amira Hass
More than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during Operation Cast Lead could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law, according to a report to be released by Amnesty International on Monday.
The United States is at the top of the list of arms exporters to Israel, but France, Romania, Bosnia and Serbia are listed as well. Amnesty's report, entitled, "Fueling Conflict: Foreign Arms supplies to Israel/Gaza," details arms sales to Israel between 2004 and 2007, and publishes some of the organization's findings on the use of such weapons against civilians and civilian targets.
"Direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks are war crimes," the report states, describing such attacks during the war in Gaza. The organization recommends that all arms sales to Israel be frozen until "there is no longer a substantial risk that such equipment will be used for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses."
The report further noted that Hamas and other Palestinian groups also used weapons indiscriminately against civilians. Although Amnesty cannot determine the direct supplier of non-homemade weapons (which are manufactured in Iran and Russia), it also calls for a moratorium on weapons sales and shipments to the Palestinians. The report also mentions that the types and quantity of weapons in Hamas' hands are much smaller than those in Israel's possession.
"Even before the three-week conflict, those who armed the two sides will have been aware of the pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by the parties. They must take some responsibility for the violations perpetrated with the weapons they have supplied and should immediately cease further transfers," the report states."
Since 2001, the Unites States has been Israel's main supplier of conventional weapons, the report states. The figures Amnesty obtained show that from 2004 to 2007, the total value of U.S.-supplied arms to Israel stood at some $8.3 billion.
The report also notes that since 2002, Israel has received military and security aid to the tune of $21 billion, of which $19 billion was direct military aid. "Put simply, Israel's military intervention in the Gaza Strip has been equipped to a large extent by U.S.-supplied weapons, munitions and military equipment paid for with U.S. taxpayers' money."
A 10-year agreement, in force until 2017, stipulates that the United States will supply Israel with military aid totaling $30 billion.
"The Obama administration should immediately suspend U.S. military aid to Israel," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East director, said ahead of the report's release.
Between 2004 to 2007, France exported military equipment to Israel to the tune of 59 million Euros. Romania exported equipment worth approximately 20 million Euros, while Britain provided the equivalent of some 10 million pounds sterling's worth. Serbia sold Israel approximately $15 million worth of weapons and munitions, whereas Germany provided some $1.5 million in military aid.
The report also mentions civilian targets, including The American School in Beit Lahia, Gaza, destroyed by F-16 aircraft. Amnesty's report further states that three ambulance crew-members and a boy who showed them the way to a group of injured were killed on January 4 by an Israeli guided missile that was manufactured jointly by Hellfire Systems and Lockheed Martin/Boeing as part of a U.S. military contract.
The Amnesty representative in the Gaza Strip also found extensive evidence of the use of U.S.-made phosphorus bombs against civilian targets and densely populated areas.