Italy arms export to Israel continues despite previous assurances of blocking sales

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Italy has continued to export arms to Israel, the Italian defence minister said on Thursday, despite assurances last year that the government was blocking such sales following Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip.

However, Guido Crosetto told parliament that only previously signed orders were being honoured after checks had been made to ensure the weaponry would not be used against Gaza civilians.

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Under Italian law, arms exports are banned to countries that are waging war and those deemed to be violating international human rights.

Crosetto announced last year following the explosion of violence in Gaza that the Italian authority which oversees the sale of military goods, known as Uama, had blocked authorisation of the transfer of arms to Israel.

However, picking apart data from statistics agency ISTAT, independent media outlet Altreconomia this week reported that Italy had exported 2.1 million euros ($2.30 million) in arms and munitions to Israel in the last three months of 2023.

In December alone, Italy exported 1.3 million euros worth of arms, three times the level of the same month in 2022.

Crosetto told parliament these were outstanding contracts. “Uama checked them on a case-by-case basis and they did not concern materials that could be used against civilians in Gaza,” he said.

Francesco Vignarca, head of a national pacifist network for disarmament, said there was little clarity surrounding arms sales and criticized recent moves to reform the export law.

“With the (proposed) changes, decisions (on exports) will be more political and transparency will be reduced,” he said, adding that all outstanding arms contracts to Israel needed to be suspended.

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Italy’s conservative government offered immediate support to Israel in the wake of the surprise Hamas attack on Oct. 7, but has since criticized the Israeli invasion of Gaza, saying far too many civilians were dying and urging an immediate ceasefire.

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