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War on Gaza: Indian union refuses to load ships with arms headed for Israel

The move comes days after Israel received 20 Indian-made Hermes 900 drones, routinely used in attacks on Gaza
Israeli soldiers hold a drone in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on 6 December 2023 (AFP)

An Indian trade union operating at several ports across the country have vowed not to load or offload ships carrying weapons to Israel, the general secretary of the Water Transport Workers Federation of India has said, just days after news broke that Indian-made combat drones had made their way to Israel.

In an interview with Middle East Eye on Sunday, T. Narendra Rao, general secretary of the Water Transport Workers Federation of India, said the union refused to be involved in any action that would add to the further suffering of Palestinians

"We decided, if any vessel or any ship is carrying the arms or ammunitions or weaponised cargo to Israel, we decided to boycott. We will not cooperate with that," Rao told MEE.

Last week, the union released a statement announcing its decision to boycott all ships carrying arms to Israel. It added the decision also applied to any ship with military cargo headed to Israel.

In the statement released on 14 February, the union said that as port workers, they "would always stand against the war and killing innocent people like women and children".

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"Women and children have been blown to pieces in the war. Parents were unable to recognise their children killed in bombings that were exploding everywhere," the statement added.

Rao told MEE the union had not yet come across ships with weapons headed to Israel, and that the union's statement was meant to serve as a pre-emptive measure, as well as an act of solidarity with Palestinians given the devastation in Gaza.

The Water Transport Workers Federation of India union organises at the 11 government owned major ports in India, of which there are 13 total. It does not organise at the Mundra Port, which is run by Adani, a company with the majority stake in the joint enterprise with Elbit Systems, the largest Israeli military manufacturer.

Since 7 October, more than 28,990 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks on the besieged enclave.

Israel has also systematically cut off access to water, electricity, food and communications in Gaza.

Indian-made drones to Israel

The union's action comes just a week after news broke that the Israeli army received 20 Indian-made Hermes 900 drones that are routinely used in attacks on Gaza.

Both the Israeli and Indian governments have not publicly acknowledged the deal.

But a source at Adani, which runs 12 small ports across several states, confirmed to The Wire that the drones did make their way to Israel.

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Human rights activists and defence analysts say the development would implicate India further in the genocide of Palestinians unfolding in Gaza. 

On 7 February, the Indian news channel TV9 Hindi reported that drones, manufactured in the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad, would help fulfil "Israel's needs in the Israel-Hamas war".

India is the largest purchaser of Israeli weapons, accounting for around 46 percent of all arms sold by Israel to the world. Indian companies also co-produce several Israeli weapons in factories across India.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, relations between India and Israel have grown, with the two countries engaging in a strategic partnership since 2018.

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