UK approval of arms exports to Israel plunged at start of Gaza war

Israeli soldiers work with tanks during a military drill. (Reuters/File Photo)
Israeli soldiers work with tanks during a military drill. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 17 June 2024
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UK approval of arms exports to Israel plunged at start of Gaza war

UK approval of arms exports to Israel plunged at start of Gaza war
  • Permits granted for sale of military equipment to Israel fell by more than 95 percent to 13-year low
  • US and Germany increased arms sales to Israel after the start of the war with Hamas

LONDON: Britain’s approval of arms export licenses to Israel dropped sharply after the start of the war in Gaza, with the value of permits granted for the sale of military equipment to its ally falling by more than 95 percent to a 13-year low.
The figures, which have not previously been reported, are based on information provided by government officials to Reuters and data from the Department for Business and Trade’s Export Control unit.
The US and Germany increased arms sales to Israel after the start of the war with Hamas.
However, the value of British-approved licenses between Oct. 7 and Dec. 31 last year dropped to 859,381 pounds ($1.09 million), government officials told Reuters. That is the lowest figure for the period between Oct. 7 and Dec. 31 since 2010.
This compares with the government approving 20 million pounds of arms sales to Israel for the same period in 2022, including small arms ammunition and components for combat aircraft, according to government data.
In the same period in 2017, the government approved 185 million pounds in arms sales to Israel, including components for tanks and surface-to-air missiles, the data shows, the highest figure for the period in publicly available data going back to 2008.
Unlike the US, Britain’s government does not give arms directly to Israel but rather issues licenses for companies to sell weapons, with input from lawyers on whether they comply with international law.
Many of the licenses approved in the period after the start of the war in Gaza were for items listed for “commercial use” or non-lethal items such as body armor, military helmets or all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection.
Reuters could not establish if the fall in the value of approved licenses for Israel was because of a decision by Britain to restrict the sale of certain items, or because there was a drop in demand from Israel.
The Department for Business and Trade, which is responsible for approving the export licenses, and the Foreign Office declined to comment. Israel’s embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.

RESTRICTIONS
Israel’s conflict in Gaza was triggered when Hamas fighters charged into Israel on Oct. 7 and killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s subsequent bombardment and invasion of Gaza has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave.
Members of Britain’s parliament and human rights groups have criticized the government for the lack of public information about arms sales to Israel since the start of the conflict.
Some countries such as Italy, Canada and the Netherlands have imposed restrictions on arms exports to Israel because of concerns about how the weapons could be used.
While Germany approved arms exports to Israel worth 326 million euros last year, 10 times more than in 2022, the volume of approvals fell to around 10 million euros in the first quarter of this year.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been one of Europe’s strongest advocates of Israel’s right to respond with overwhelming force against Hamas.
He has resisted calls to halt arms transfers to Israel but has said the government adheres to a “very careful licensing regime.”
Britain is expected to provide information about arms sales to Israel in the first half of this year in the coming months.
The government has in the past blocked arms sales to Israel, such as in 2009 when it revoked some licenses, and in 1982 when there was a formal restriction after the invasion of Lebanon.


German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
Updated 6 sec ago
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German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
  • Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years

BERLIN: A German court has ruled that there is no longer a general danger to all civilians from the long-running conflict in Syria, rejecting a claim to protected status by a Syrian man who had been convicted in Austria for involvement in smuggling people into Europe.
The ruling by the top administrative court of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, was announced Monday. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said Tuesday it was “a decision that one can understand, if one assumes that there are now regions in this country that are very dangerous but also other areas where there isn’t necessary a danger to life.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences if any the ruling would have for German authorities’ practice in handling claims for protection from Syrians, who so far largely have been deemed to face such a threat. It could still be appealed.
The court in the western city of Muenster ruled in the case of a man from Hasaka province in northeastern Syria who arrived in Germany in 2014.
German authorities denied him protected status because he had previously been involved in smuggling people from Turkiye to Europe, an offense for which he was given a several-year sentence in Austria. But a court obliged them to recognize him as a refugee.
The Muenster court reversed that ruling on appeal. The presiding judge said the man didn’t face political persecution in Syria and his previous offenses barred him from being given refugee or other protected status, the court said in a statement.
It also found that he didn’t qualify for a lesser degree of protection in part because there is no longer a “serious individual threat to the life or physical integrity of civilians as a result of arbitrary violence in the context of a domestic conflict in Hasaka province, but also generally in Syria.” The court contended that fighting and attacks in the region no longer reach a level at which civilians face a high probability of being killed and wounded.
A German group that supports asylum-seekers criticized the ruling. Wiebke Judith, a spokesperson for Pro Asyl, argued that it ignores the reality in Syria, German news agency dpa reported.
Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years.
Last month, Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to resume deporting criminals from Afghanistan and Syria, though it remains unclear how that would happen.

 


US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
Updated 24 July 2024
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US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
  • If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said

NEW YORK: The Treasury Department ordered the nation’s banking industry to start disclosing its holdings of Russian assets on Tuesday, with the goal of eventually seizing those billions of dollars in assets and selling them to aid the devastated Ukrainian economy.
The disclosure is required under a new law passed by Congress earlier this year known as the REPO Act, which gives the US government the authority to seize Russian state assets held by US banks, with the goal of eventually selling them and giving those funds to Ukraine. While the vast bulk of Russian assets are held in Europe, it is estimated that the US banking system holds as much as $6 billion in Russian assets in trust.
Banks will need to report Russian assets on their books no later than Aug. 2 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has killed tens of thousands but has also caused significant devastation to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure. The World Bank estimated in February that Ukraine will need $486 billion for recovery and reconstruction, a figure that has only risen as the war has continued.
The US, Canada, France, Germany Italy, the UK and Japan — commonly known as the G7 — froze roughly $300 billion worth of Russian assets at the start of the war. These assets included hard currency, as well as gold and investments in publicly and privately-held companies. But there has been little conversation until this year about what to do with those frozen assets, until the idea of forfeiture and liquidation was included in the REPO Act.


Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
Updated 24 July 2024
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Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel

Demonstrators stage mass protest against Netanyahu visit and US military aid to Israel
  • Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress

WASHINGTON: Protesters against the Gaza war staged a sit-in at a congressional office building Tuesday ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress, with Capitol Police making multiple arrests.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington Monday for a several-day visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Dozens of protesters rallied outside his hotel Monday evening, and on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of demonstrators took over the rotunda of the Cannon Building, which houses offices of House of Representatives members.
Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, protesters wearing identical red T-shirts that read “Not In Our Name” took over the Rotunda of the Cannon Building, chanting “Let Gaza Live!”
After about a half-hour of clapping and chanting, officers from the US Capitol Police issued several warnings, then began arresting protesters — binding their hands with zip ties and leading them away one by one.
“I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors and I know what a Holocaust looks like,” said Jane Hirschmann, a native of Saugerties, New York, who drove down for the protest along with her two daughters — both of whom were arrested. “When we say ‘Never Again,’ we mean never for anybody.”
The demonstrators focused much of their ire on the Biden administration, demanding that the president immediately cease all arms shipments to Israel.
“We’re not focusing on Netanyahu. He’s just a symptom,” Hirschmann said. “But how can (Biden) be calling for a ceasefire when he’s sending them bombs and planes?”
It wasn’t immediately clear how many protesters had been arrested.
Mitchell Rivard, chief of staff for Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, said in a statement that his office called for Capitol Police intervention after the demonstrators “became disruptive, violently beating on the office doors, shouting loudly, and attempting to force entry into the office.”
Netanyahu’s American visit has touched off a wave of protest activity, with some demonstrations condemning Israel and others expressing support but pressuring Netanyahu to strike a ceasefire deal and bring home the hostages still being held by Hamas.
Families of some of the remaining hostages were planning a protest vigil Tuesday night on the National Mall. And multiple overlapping protests are planned for Wednesday, when Netanyahu is slated to address Congress. In anticipation, police have significantly boosted security around the Capitol building and closed multiple roads for the entire week.
Biden and Netanyahu are expected to meet Thursday, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House announcement. Vice President Kamala Harris will also meet with Netanyahu separately that day.
Harris, as Senate president, would normally sit behind foreign leaders addressing Congress, but she’ll be away Wednesday, on an Indianapolis trip scheduled before Biden withdrew his reelection bid and she became the likely Democratic presidential candidate over the weekend.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced on Truth Social that he would meet with Netanyahu on Friday.


Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
Updated 24 July 2024
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Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya

Chad repatriates 157 nationals detained in Libya
  • Chad’s foreign ministry did not say why they had been arrested
  • It added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks

N’DJAMENA: Chad repatriated 157 of its citizens who had been detained in neighboring Libya on Tuesday, working in partnership with the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Libyan state, its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Chadian nationals were flown back to the Sahel country on a special flight, the statement said.

It did not say why the Chadians had been arrested but added that more repatriation flights would follow in the coming weeks in order to “release and repatriate” all Chadians still detained in the North African country, and said that a “diaspora conference” would be organized in the coming days.

The repatriation flight comes a week after President Mahamat Idriss Deby attended an international forum on trans-Mediterranean migration in Libya.

Deby, who seized power after rebels killed his father in 2021, was sworn in as president in May following a controversial election. 


Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics
Updated 24 July 2024
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Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Israeli athletes were “welcome” for the Paris Olympics, rejecting calls from some left-wing French MPs and the Palestinian Olympic Committee for a boycott.

“Israeli athletes are welcome in our country. They must be able to compete under their colors because the Olympic movement has decided it,” he told France 2 television in an interview, adding that it was “France’s responsibility to provide them with security.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible way all those who create risks for these athletes and implicitly threaten them,” he said.

He added that Israel had “the right to defend itself” but called the continuing bombardment of Gaza — where 39,090 people have died, according to the latest estimate from the Hamas-run health ministry — “unacceptable.”

“France was one of the first countries in Europe to call for a ceasefire,” he added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has confirmed he will attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, and Macron said Prime Minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu would also be “welcome” but was not expected because he is in the United States.

Discussing the opening ceremony for the Paris Games as helicopters could be heard in the background hovering over the capital, Macron said that “we will all see on Friday night why it was worth the hassle.”

Much of central Paris is off-limits ahead of the ceremony along the river Seine, with 45,000 members of the security forces set to be on duty as well as 10,000 soldiers to prevent any incident that would ruin the show.

“There is a security challenge and it’s true for all capitals which organize the Games,” Macron said. “It’s true for the opening ceremony. It will be true for the whole of the Games.”

“We need to come together as France that is welcoming the world,” added the centrist, who called snap elections in June that have led to political deadlock in parliament.

Asked about the artists set to perform on Friday evening, he said it would be “fantastic news” if Quebec-born singer Celine Dion could take part, but he declined to confirm her presence.

Dion has been spotted in Paris, while video of Lady Gaga in the City of Light has also fueled rumors that she might be one of the top international performers.