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Dutch Court Orders Halt to Export of F-35 Jet Parts to Israel


By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – A Dutch appeals court on Monday ordered the government to block all exports of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns they were being used in violations of international law during Israel’s Gaza offensive.

It said the state had to comply with the order within seven days and dismissed a request by government lawyers to suspend the order pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. The state has eight weeks to appeal against the decision.

War in Israel and Gaza

TOPSHOT - A Palestinian woman cries as she inspects a heavily damaged apartment following Israeli bombardment on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 8, 2024, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas enters its fifth month. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP) (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is undeniable that there is a clear risk the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the court said.

Israel’s massive aerial and ground offensive in the densely populated Gaza Strip has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run enclave’s health authorities, and displaced most of its 2.3 million people from their homes.

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Israel denies committing war crimes in its attacks on Gaza, which followed the Hamas cross-border raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 240 were taken hostage.

The Israeli defence ministry declined to comment on the Dutch court ruling.

In a separate legal case in January, the U.N.’s top court, the International Court of Justice, ordered Israel to take action to prevent acts of genocide in its war against Hamas. The ruling prompted renewed calls by human rights groups to ban weapons’ exports to Israel.

The case against the Dutch government was brought by several human rights groups, including the Dutch affiliate of Oxfam, last December.

“We hope this ruling will strengthen international law in other countries so that the citizens of Gaza are also protected by international law,” Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes said in a statement.

UNACCEPTABLE CIVILIAN CASUALTIES

In a first ruling in December, a Dutch lower court had stopped short of ordering the Dutch government to halt the exports, even though it said it was likely that F-35s contributed to violations of the laws of war.

But where the lower court ruled the state had a large degree of freedom in weighing political and policy issues to decide on arms exports, the appeals court said such concerns did not trump the clear risk of breaches of international law.

The appeals court also said it was likely that the F-35s were being used in attacks on Gaza, leading to unacceptable civilian casualties. It dismissed the Dutch state’s argument that it did not have to do a new check on the permit for the exports.

The Netherlands houses one of several regional warehouses of U.S.-owned F-35 parts, from which the parts are distributed to countries that request them, including Israel in at least one shipment since Oct. 7.

Presiding Judge Bas Boele said there was a possibility the Dutch government could allow the export of F-35 parts to Israel in future, but only on the strict condition they would not be used in military operations in Gaza.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer, Editing by David Goodman, Angus MacSwan and Alex Richardson)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.



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