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Risk of Australian-made weapons being used to commit grave violations against children in Gaza

As Israeli forces expand military operations in Rafah, Australia must ban all military exports to Israel.
10 May 2024

The Australian Government must officially ban all military exports to Israel to ensure that Australian-made weapons, parts of weapons, ammunition and no other products are being used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international law or grave violations against children in Gaza, Save the Children Australia said today. 
About 26,000 children – or more than 2% of Gaza’s total child population – have been killed or injured in just under seven months of war. 
Israel announced earlier this week it will expand military operation in Rafah, irrespective of the UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and warnings from NGOs that a ground incursion into Rafah would lead to the deadliest stage of the war yet. Rafah is completely overwhelmed with 1.3 million displaced, hungry, and traumatised people, including more than 600,000 children. 
Despite the Australian Government claiming it is not currently exporting weapons to Israel, the notoriously secretive nature of Australia’s defence exports system leaves open the risk that other Australian-made products, such as explosives, chemicals, and radios are still being exported to Israel and used by Israeli forces in Gaza. These items are considered “dual use”, meaning they could be used for either military or civilian purposes.   
The Department of Defence does not provide a public breakdown of which military exports contain weapons, munitions, or dual use products.  
Trade figures revealed during a Senate hearing in October 2023 show that Australia granted 54 defence export permits to Israel last year, and 350 permits since 2017. 
Both Labor and the Coalition recently voted against a Greens motion in the Senate to “immediately end all trade of military equipment with the state of Israel”. 
Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler said anything less than a complete ban on all military equipment to Israel fails to fulfil moral, humanitarian, and legal imperatives. 
“Australia and many other countries have consistently called on the Government of Israel not to go down this path, warning that an attack on Rafah would have catastrophic consequences, and yet Israel seems intent on unleashing this terrifying new phase of the war anyway.” 
“With the lives of more than 600,000 children in Rafah now at serious risk, Australia must at least ensure that no Australian-made weapons or any other products are being used by Israeli forces to kill or maim children in the attack on Rafah or anywhere else in Gaza or the West Bank.” 
“Australia has rightly backed international calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and provided humanitarian funding to address dire needs but it’s counterproductive to both back a ceasefire and at the same time leave loopholes in our approach to military exports to Israel during a war that has already killed more than 14,000 children and injured tens of thousands more.” 
Save the Children also calls on the Australian Government to adopt a range of transparency measures that would put Australia in line with other democratic arms-exporting countries, including the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, and New Zealand. 
“Australians have a right to know how and where Australian-made weapons are being used, but right now that information is extremely difficult to come by, despite many other likeminded countries already making this basic information publicly available,” Mr Tinkler said. 
“Taking fundamental transparency measures will help ensure Australia can uphold its commitments and adherence to the principles of international humanitarian law.” 
In February 2024, dozens of UN experts called on Australia and other countries to impose an arms embargo on Israel, noting the ruling by the International Court of Justice on 26 January 2024 that some of Israel’s actions in Gaza could plausibly amount to genocide, and welcomed the suspension of arms transfers to Israel by Belgium, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. 
In March, Canada’s parliament voted to end military exports to Israel until it can ensure weapons exported to Israel are being used in accordance with the law. The European Union has also discouraged arms exports to Israel. 
Earlier this year, a court ordered the Dutch Government to block all exports of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns they were being used to violate international law, which could, in turn, implicate the Netherlands. 
An Australian ban on military exports to Israel should include a ban on exporting parts used in F-35 fighter jets to any country without a guarantee those jets will not be sold to Israel. According to Lockheed Martin, the global manufacturer of F-35 fighter jets, “every F-35 built contains some Australian parts and components”. Israel is currently using F-35s to bomb Gaza.

More than 250 humanitarian and human rights organisations have now signed onto a statement demanding that all States immediately halt the transfer of weapons, parts, and ammunition to Israel and Palestinian armed groups.


MEDIA CONTACT: Joshua Mcdonald on 0478010972 or

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