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War on Gaza: Regional Belgian government suspends arms export licences to Israel

Belgium's Walloon parliament suspended two licences for gunpowder exports to Israel following pressure from human rights groups
Minister-President of Wallonia Elio Di Rupo (centre) speaks during a session of the Walloon parliament in Namur, 13 December 2023 (AFP).

The regional government of Wallonia in southern Belgium temporarily suspended two arms export licences to Israel on Monday.

Officials said that the decision was due to "the unacceptable deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip".

They also cited the International Court of Justice's recent decision ordering Israel to avoid genocide in Gaza, according to local media reports.

The decision comes days after a group of NGOs penned an open letter calling on Walloon Minister-President Elio Di Rupo to immediately halt arms exports to Israel.

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Amnesty International Belgium, the Human Rights League, the National Coordination of Action for Peace and Democracy and Vredesactie (Peace Action) warned in their letter, published in the Belgian daily Le Soir on 2 February, that if the request was not answered within eight days, it would be referred to “the competent courts to enforce international law”. 

"As a state party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Belgium must respect a duty to prevent genocide.

"This implies in particular not providing Israel with the means enabling it to commit acts amounting to potential genocide," they said in the letter.

Housing Minister Christophe Collignon, who spoke in parliament on Monday, announced that Di Rupo had temporarily suspended two powder expert licences that were granted to the PB Clermont munitions factory in Liege in 2023.

Collignon added that the final destination of the gunpowder was not Israel, but European countries.

"However, the 26 January order of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, as well as the unacceptable deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip led the Minister-President to temporarily suspend the valid licences," he continued.

Calls for companies and organisations to suspend ties with Israel have been increasing as Israel’s war on Gaza nears its fifth month.

Japanese company Itochu Corporation recently announced that its collaboration with Israel’s biggest weapons company, Elbit Systems, will end in February, citing Israel's war on Gaza and the ICJ's interim decision.

Israeli strikes have killed at least 27,585 Palestinians in Gaza, and wounded at least 67,000 others in four months of war, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Another 7,000 people are missing, believed to be dead or buried under rubble. 

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