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Netherlands barred from sending fighter jet parts to Israel

An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft
The Netherlands is home to one of three US F-35 European regional warehouses - JACK GUEZ/AFP

The Netherlands must stop delivering parts for F-35 fighter jets used by Israel in the Gaza Strip, a Dutch court has ruled.

Siding with a legal challenge by a group of human rights organisations, the Appeals Court in The Hague ruled there was a “clear risk” the planes would be involved in “serious violations of humanitarian law of war”.

Exports of F-35 parts to Israel must cease within seven days, but the government has said it will appeal to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, though the prohibition on exports will remain.

F-35s are crucial for Israel to protect itself from “threats in the region, for example from Iran, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon”, The Hague said in a statement.

The US-owned F-35 parts are stored at a warehouse in the Netherlands and then shipped to several partners, including Israel, via existing export agreements. The Netherlands is home to one of three F-35 European regional warehouses.

Human rights groups in the UK have brought a similar suit against the Government
Human rights groups in the UK have brought a similar suit against the Government - SHUTTERSTOCK/LEX VAN LIESHOUT/EPA-EFE

Oxfam Novib, Pax Nederland and The Rights Forum brought a civil suit against the Netherlands in December, arguing authorities needed to reevaluate the export licence in light of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

In response, the District Court in The Hague had said that supplying the parts was primarily a political decision that judges should not interfere with.

“The considerations that the minister makes are to a large extent of a political and policy nature and judges should leave the minister a large amount of freedom,” the court ruled at the time.

But the Appeals Court overturned this ruling on Monday, saying the Netherlands “must prohibit the export of military goods if there is a clear risk of serious violations of the humanitarian law of war”.

“Israel does not take sufficient account of the consequences for the civilian population when conducting its attacks,” said the court, adding that the attacks in Gaza “have caused a disproportionate number of civilian casualties, including thousands of children”.

Human rights lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld (R) and Thomas van der Sommen at court in The Hague
Human rights lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld (R) and Thomas van der Sommen at court in The Hague - SHUTTSTOCK/LEX VAN LIESHOUT/EPA-EFE

The war was launched in response to the unprecedented attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Oct 7.

Those attacks resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized around 250 hostages and Israel says around 130 are still in Gaza, though 29 are thought to be dead.

Israel has responded with an offensive in Gaza that the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says has killed at least 28,340 people as of Monday, mostly women and children.

Other countries are also considering restricting weapons sales to Israel, with human rights groups in the United Kingdom bringing a similar suit against the Government, attempting to block weapons exports to Israel.

In the United States, Democrats in the Senate are pushing a bill that would require Joe Biden to get congressional approval before greenlighting weapons sales to Israel.