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Israel sold arms to Myanmar after 2021 military coup, despite govt. ban

September 6, 2023 at 8:45 am

A man looks at a display of rockets from Elbit Systems UK including the Predator Hawk (L) and the Extra (2L) as delegates enjoy drinks at the end of day one of the DSEI arms fair at ExCel on September 10, 2019 [Leon Neal/Getty Images]

Israel continued to sell advanced weaponry to Myanmar’s military junta despite a government ban on such arms sales, Haaretz has revealed. The newspaper cited documents and anonymous sources to show that Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems — which has factories in the UK — and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) maintained their trade with Myanmar even after the 2021 military coup in the south-east Asian country, directly opposing government orders to cease doing so.

According to the report, IAI has dispatched at least four shipments since 2018 totalling around 250 metric tons to Myanmar from Israel, with the last dated March 2022. The recipient was named as the head of Myanmar’s Directorate of Defence Procurement.

Despite shipping records displaying the cargo as “aircraft parts” and “metal plates”, sources informed the paper that the cargo could also have been Dvora-class patrol boats which IAI has supplied to Myanmar’s navy. The last two were built in Myanmar and commissioned in a formal event in December 2022, a year after the military coup.

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IAI also provided the military junta with advanced radar systems produced by its subsidiary ELTA Systems.

The anonymous sources told the newspaper that Elbit Systems had also sold military systems to the Myanmar Air Force, through shipments that arrived in the former capital Yangon most likely via Singapore and Thailand. Those systems included an ACMI (air combat manoeuvring instrumentation) pod, parts for Skylark unmanned aerial vehicles, and a remotely-operated naval turret armed with a rapid-firing 25 mm gun.

Following the revelations, the spokesperson for Justice For Myanmar, Yadanar Maung, called for an investigation of the Israeli companies’ ties to Myanmar. “The Myanmar military is waging a campaign of terror against the people with indiscriminate air strikes, murder, rape and torture,” she explained. “This is the context in which IAI and Elbit have been equipping the military, knowing full well it is responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

She called on the Israeli authorities to “urgently investigate IAI and Elbit’s business with the Myanmar military and ensure accountability for any breaches of Israeli and international law. It’s time Israel stands with the people of Myanmar and ends all support for the military.”

In response to the allegations, IAI claimed that, “There has been no business activity with Myanmar in recent years. IAI acts in accordance with the policies of the Defence Ministry’s Defence Exports Control Agency.” Elbit also responded, with a haughty, “We do not address specific deals with this or that customer.”

Israel’s ties with Myanmar and its military have long run deep, with reports having revealed over recent years that Tel Aviv supported the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in exchange for backing in international affairs and forums; that Israel gave Myanmar the tools to carry out the genocide; that the Israeli ambassador sent a “good luck” message to Myanmar ahead of World Court hearings on the genocide; and most recently that an Israeli cyber company provided spyware to the Myanmar military junta.

In early 2018, following intense media coverage, public pressure and a High Court ruling the year before, Israel officially announced that it was stopping arms sales to Myanmar. The revelations that Tel Aviv and its arms companies have continued to trade with the south-east Asian country are directly in contravention of that announcement.

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