ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Italian FM reveals country ceased arms shipments to Israel starting October 7

In rebuttal of opposition lawmaker’s concerns Italian arms being used for ‘war crimes,’ Antonio Tajani states weapons exports were halted at war’s outset

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani arrives at a press conference on G7 at the Foreign Ministry in Rome, January 17, 2024. (Domenico Stinellis/AP Photo)
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani arrives at a press conference on G7 at the Foreign Ministry in Rome, January 17, 2024. (Domenico Stinellis/AP Photo)

Italian Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani told local media Saturday that his country had halted all arms shipments to Israel since Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught.

The minister’s comments, made in an interview with Italian newspapers Nazione, Giorno, and Resto del Carlino, were a response to a demand by opposition leader Elly Schlein that the Italian government stop weapons exports to the Middle East. Tajani accused her of being “misinformed.”

“Since October 7, we have decided not to send any more arms to Israel, so there is no need to discuss this point,” said Tajani, according to a report from Italian news agency ANSA.

On October 7, some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists invaded Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and taking 253 hostages of all ages, while committing numerous atrocities and weaponizing sexual violence on a mass scale. The massacre triggered an unprecedented bombing campaign and ground operation in Gaza, which, according to unverified figures by the Hamas-run health ministry has claimed the lives of some 25,000 Palestinians thus far. The figures do not differentiate between combatants and civilians, and include victims of misfired Palestinian rockets.

Speaking at a Friday meeting of the center-left Democratic Party, which she heads, Schlein said that “we must face the issue of avoiding fueling these conflicts, of avoiding sending arms and exporting arms to conflicts, to the conflict in the Middle East, in this case particularly to Israel,” according to ANSA.

“We cannot risk weapons being used to commit what could be construed as war crimes,” added the opposition lawmaker.

Italian Democratic Party, PD, lawmaker Elly Schlein listens to questions during a press conference she held at the Foreign Press association headquarters, in Rome, February 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini/File)

According to Israeli news site Walla, some five percent of Israeli arms purchases over the past decade have come from Italy, which include helicopters and naval artillery.

In separate news, Tajani said in an interview with Italian radio Friday that his country would be willing to send troops to a peacekeeping mission in Gaza, ANSA reported.

On Sunday, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated refusal to accept a two-state formula for peace, Tajani told reporters that President Isaac Herzog is nonetheless open to such a solution, according to a report in Italian daily Il Tempo.

Tajani, a former air force officer who has led the conservative Forza Italia party since the death of its chairman Silvio Berlusconi in July, made an early solidarity visit to Israel at the start of the war on Hamas, and in November reaffirmed with other G7 nations his belief in Israel’s right to defend itself, within the bounds of international law, against Hamas aggression.

Diplomats including Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani pay solidarity visits to southern Israel, accompanied by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, October 13, 2023 (Lazar Berman / Times of Israel)

By December, the Italian foreign minister struck a more critical tone, condemning Israel for shooting inside a Gaza church. In January, as president of the G7, Tajani explored with other foreign ministers in the group the possibility of applying pressure on Israel to bring the war to a “rapid” end.

On the subject of South Africa’s ongoing claim at the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing “genocide” against Gazans, Tajani has said that although Israel has hit civilians in Gaza, it is not committing genocide.

Berlusconi, the erstwhile leader of Tajani’s party, and a colorful, scandal-ridden, media mogul who served as Italy’s prime minister for a cumulative nine years, was known to be a strong supporter of Israel, even raising the possibility that the Jewish state join the European Union. It was under Berlusconi that Italy sold 30 jet trainers to Israel, in a billion-dollar deal. Though critical of Israel’s West Bank settlements, Berlusconi at one time stated that the West should support Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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