UN rights officials call for Israel arms embargo; FM: They’re cooperating with Hamas

Group of rapporteurs publishes statement saying providing any weapons to the Jewish state for use in Gaza war is likely to violate international law

Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused the UN Human Rights Council of collaborating with Hamas on Saturday, after a group of UN rights officials called for an arms embargo on Israel, saying that any export of weapons or ammunition to the Jewish state for use in Gaza was “likely to violate international humanitarian law.”

In the statement, issued under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the rights experts said that all countries have a responsibility not to sell weapons “if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behavior, that they would be used to violate international law.” The same thing went for military intelligence, the statement noted.

In response to the statement, the Foreign Ministry reiterated that Israel was fighting the war in self-defense and that “even in the face of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Hamas terrorists, Israel has acted, and will continue to act, in accordance with international law.”

The ministry added that calls for an arms embargo on Israel are “actually calls of support for the Hamas terrorist organization,” and said that banning states from sharing intelligence with Israel represented “calls to prevent the hostages being brought home.”

Katz went on to accuse the Human Rights Council of cooperating with Hamas and trying to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense.

“Ignoring the war crimes, sexual crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by Hamas terrorists constitutes a stain that cannot be erased on the UN as an organization and personally on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself,” he said.

The UN experts praised a Dutch court for ruling earlier this month that the government must halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel.

The officials also lauded Belgium, Italy, Spain and a Japanese arms company for suspending arms transfers to Israel and noted that the European Union had also recently discouraged it.

They urged the US and Germany, Israel’s biggest arms suppliers, as well as France, the UK, Canada, and Australia to make the same move.

“State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide,” they said.

Many of the experts were UN special rapporteurs: unpaid, independent experts mandated by the Human Rights Council. They do not speak for the United Nations, but report their findings to the council’s fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms.

Israeli Infantry reservists seen during light arms training in the northern Golan Heights before heading south to the Gaza Strip on October 8, 2023. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The officials clarified that arms transfers to Hamas and other terrorist groups were already prohibited because of their violations of international humanitarian law. However, they added that “the duty to ‘ensure respect’ for humanitarian law applies ‘in all circumstances’ including when Israel claims it is countering terrorism.”

The team of dozens of independent experts who backed the statement included Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese, who was officially banned from Israel earlier this month over her apparent justification of Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacres, after she tweeted that victims were killed “in response to Israel’s oppression.”

Albanese previously said Israel was committing “atrocities in Gaza” and that Palestinians there were “at grave risk of genocide.” In a statement on October 14, she accused Israel of aiming to ethnically cleanse Gaza, while not mentioning the devastating shock Hamas attack on Israel.

Albanese said during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas that the “Jewish lobby” was in control of the United States. She has also sympathized with terror organizations, dismissed Israeli security concerns, compared Israelis to Nazis, accused the Jewish state of potential war crimes, said Israel controlled the BBC, and claimed that the Jewish state started wars out of greed.

For years, Israel has accused the UN Human Rights Council of being “obsessive, biased, and anti-Israel.” It has singled out Agenda Item 7, the permanent HRC item, which does not exist for any other conflict, reserved for alleged Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians and other Arabs, as well as a series of resolutions it has adopted against Israel accusing the country of apartheid among others.

The war began on October 7 when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 253. Following the attack, Israel vowed to dismantle the terrorist organization and get the hostages back.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that close to 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the subsequent fighting, but the number cannot be independently verified as it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 12,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.

Israel has continued to insist that it is fighting the war in Gaza in accordance with international law, and that it makes great efforts to prevent harm to civilians, but that casualties are unavoidable while fighting a terror group embedded deeply within the civilian population, and operating from residential buildings, hospitals, schools, shelters, mosques and more.

Haaretz reported earlier this month that the IDF was launching a probe into specific reported incidents of troops potentially violating international law. According to the report, a specially formed team will look into incidents such as the targeting of a Hamas official which reportedly killed dozens of civilians, destruction of a university campus, and the accidental killing of three Israeli hostages.

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