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Wallonia bans all arms transport to Israel

14:44 02/06/2024

Arms destined for Israel will no longer be allowed to pass through Wallonia, after minister-president Elio Di Rupo signed a ministerial decree closing a loophole in Walloon legislation.

The problem was revealed on 23 May in documents that the RTBF, Le Soir and Flemish daily newspaper De Morgen were able to consult.

They showed that the Israeli company Challenge had never stopped transiting military equipment bound for Israel from the United States via Bierset airport, near Liège, despite the military offensive in Gaza and its drastic consequences for the Gazan people.

The investigation by the three media groups determined that at least 70 tonnes of munitions and explosives had passed through this airport since the offensive began in Gaza last October.

Challenge was taking advantage of the fact that, up until now, there hads been no rules in Wallonia on making transits without controls on what the aircraft were carrying or if they had a license to do so. In other words, aircraft that only made a short stopover at Bierset, without loading any equipment, did not need a licence.

The ministerial decree aims to correct this loophole by banning any form of transit of military equipment even without trans-shipments (the unloading of cargo from one vessel and reloading it into another during its journey from the origin to final destination).

“In view of the situation in Gaza and the decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the minister-president has decided to act within his remit and has signed a ministerial decree banning all arms transit to Israel,” stated Di Rupo’s office.

The ban applies to military equipment bound for Israel transiting through the Walloon airports of Liège or Charleroi.

It will be welcomed by campaign groups such as the Brussels-based Human Rights League, whose legal adviser Manuel Lambert told the RTBF that no aircraft should be allowed to carry anything that can contribute to war crimes.

In the same report, the director of Belgium’s Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security, Yannick Quéau, said that all transport of explosives should be blocked and so checks were essential.

The Academic Council of ULB university has also decided “by a large majority” to suspend all agreements and institutional research projects involving an Israeli university.

It will also not conclude any agreement with a Palestinian university “until their respective university authorities make a clear commitment to the unconditional release of the Israeli hostages,” the council said.

The suspension of partnerships with Israeli universities will be maintained until there is a “clear commitment” from the university authorities concerned “in favour of the demands made by the ICJ in its order of 24 May 2024”, the ULB said.

This order, announced by ICJ president Nawaf Salam, said Israel must “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza, conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said on 1 May that, since war began on 7 October 2023, at least 34,568 Palestinians have been killed and 77,765 wounded in Israel’s military offensive.

Written by Liz Newmark