Is France still delivering weapons to Israel to bomb the Gaza Strip?

The official threshold of 30,000 deaths will be crossed over the next 24 hours in the Gaza Strip.

About 70% of them are women and children.

In this context in which nothing and no one seems to be able to put an end to this tragedy, the question of the delivery of weapons to Israel is increasingly relevant.

What about France?

Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip, January 22, 2024. REUTERS - AMIR COHEN

By: Anne Bernas Follow


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Relative to the French population, the death toll in the Gaza Strip, underestimated according to the UN, is equivalent to more than a million, on the 143rd day of war.

Twenty-six of the twenty-seven countries of the European Union are calling for an 

“immediate humanitarian truce”


And Israel is threatening to launch an offensive on Rafah, the largest city in the south of the besieged enclave where more than a million and a half Palestinians have taken refuge, if the hostages are not released by Ramadan scheduled around on March 10.

The Gaza Strip is in the grip of a proven famine deliberately sponsored by Israel.

“We are imposing a complete siege on [Gaza].

No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel, everything is closed.

We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned at the end of last year.

According to the UN and international NGOs, the territory has almost no functioning hospitals and is in short supply of milk for infants and body bags for victims.

More and more voices are being raised to denounce this dramatic situation and call for an immediate ceasefire.

In mid-February, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs

Josep Borrell warned 

: " 

If you think too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide fewer weapons."

Isn't that logical?


However, Israel continues to be supplied with weapons, primarily from the United States, and has been for about half a century.

More than 90% of weapons delivered to Tel Aviv from 2017 to 2021 came from Uncle Sam. At least 250 cargo planes and more than 20 ships have delivered more than 10,000 tons of American weapons and military equipment to Israel since the start of the war, according to a tally by 

The Times of Israel


  Sources close to the Israeli Defense Ministry told the newspaper at the end of January that Tel Aviv intended to acquire a new squadron of 25 F35i stealth fighters, a squadron of 25 F-15IA fighters as well as a squadron of 12 Apache helicopters. .

In Europe, the Netherlands decided this month to no longer deliver weapons to Israel.

A first compared to other countries on the continent: Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom continue to supply Tel Aviv with weapons and military intelligence.

As for France, long the leading arms supplier to Israel and leading aid to the country in acquiring atomic weapons, its position is becoming more and more ambiguous.

French non-transparency

Over the past ten years, France has sold 208 million euros worth of military equipment to Israel, including 25.6 million in 2022, which represents "only" 0.2% of France's total sales abroad.

These deliveries include, for 9 million euros in the latest parliamentary report on


arms exports in 2022, "ML4" type components, i.e.

"bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other devices and explosive charges and related equipment and accessories and their specially designed components


Since the outbreak of war on October 7, Paris has simply emphasized that it has strengthened its military cooperation in intelligence matters.

At the end of January, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, declared to


that France was exporting

 “military equipment to Israel in order to enable it to ensure its defense, as Article 51 of the United Nations Charter gives it the right to do.” law”, 

without further details

In 2014, Paris had nevertheless taken restrictive measures against Russia, the same in 2019 with regard to Turkey, but has never stopped delivering weapons to Riyadh in its war in Yemen.

Transparency on the issue therefore does not seem to be relevant (this was already the case in 2009 during Operation Cast Lead), and many French parliamentarians

have been calling on the government

for several weeks, like La France Insoumise .

Because since then, the International Court of Justice has ruled on the situation and warned Israel on January 26, as a precautionary measure, “ 

to refrain from committing acts falling within the scope of the Convention for prevention and repression of the crime of genocide


And France has been a signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty since 2014, a text which prohibits a state from selling weapons if it has 

"knowledge [...] that these weapons or these goods could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, serious violations of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilians or objects of a civilian character and protected as such, or other war crimes


Fifteen days after the verdict of the “world court”, which is no longer a political opinion but an obligation to prevent a genocide from taking place


 Emmanuel Macron tells Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israeli operations in Gaza must “ 


 ” , that “ 

the human toll and the humanitarian situation 

” are “ 



Then the French president

told the newspaper 


: " 

a democracy cannot do what Israel is doing


However, it will be necessary to wait until June 2024 for information on potential deliveries from France to Israel to be officially announced.

As for the list of equipment sent from January 2024, it will be made public in June 2025. As the death toll in the Gaza Strip continues to soar, it is the turn of the NGO Amnesty International France to publish this February 20

an open letter

on the theme, entitled “Faced with the risk of genocide, it is urgent to suspend all arms sales to Israel”.

The president of Amnesty calls for a 

“stoppage of deliveries of weapons and war materials to Israel (…) France must respect a duty to prevent genocide.

This implies in particular not providing Israel with the means enabling it to commit acts that constitute a risk of genocide



“France is not doing itself any favors and is not doing international law any favors”

Decryption with Aymeric Elluin,

Arms advocacy manager at Amnesty International France.

RFI: Why this open letter from the president of Amnesty France at this time of the war? 

Aymeric Elluin

 : Amnesty International has repeatedly called on United Nations member states to adopt an arms embargo targeting Israel in particular for around fifteen years now.

Repeatedly with each conflict that has broken out between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

And from October 2023, we called, with other NGOs, for the adoption of an arms embargo, adopted by the United Nations, and then a halt to state arms transfers.

Embargo, stopping of arms transfers to Israel, but also to Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.

It is therefore a recurring request in fact, and which is linked to the conflict and the nature of the conflict where serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are recorded.

With the decision of the International Court of Justice on January 26, which confirmed the risk of genocide committed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, it became clear to us when reading the judgment of the order, six precautionary measures which were pronounced, as for other NGOs and jurists, that it was necessary to ensure that arms transfers to Israel were prevented.

And moreover, this is in line with international law.

International law such as the Arms Trade Treaty or the common position of the European Union on the sale of arms are very clear: from the moment you become aware that there can be genocide by means of weapons transferred, that these weapons could be used to commit genocide, you must not export.

International law on the arms trade is based on the principle of prevention.

So what is the best way to prevent the risk of genocide from occurring?

It's to stop arms sales. 

Amnesty thus affirms that France is not consistent in its arms delivery policy and lacking in its transparency...

We have been denouncing this French transparency for many years, which is, to say the least, incomplete.

Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Ministry of the Armed Forces in France has produced an annual report on France's arms exports.

But this report has several flaws: on the one hand, it arrives late in the year.

It arrives in June of the year to give information on the past year, that is to say that in June 2024 you will know if there have been orders taken and deliveries in 2023, for example to of Israel.

The report, moreover, does not provide information on what exactly we export, in what quantity, for what type of use, for what type of end user... So, we have very little information .

We just have global financial amounts, aggregates, allowing us to know, for example, that in 2023 we have exported so many millions of euros worth of weapons to a particular country.

We therefore do not have an exact map of what we export.

If we want to be consistent with our own international commitments, which we have negotiated, which we have adopted, which we have signed, which we have ratified, we do not export arms to a country while the risk of genocide is recognized.

And moreover, if we support the decision of the International Court of Justice, we ensure, as also a party to the Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, not to provide weapons which can be used possibly to the commission of genocide, because this 1948 convention encourages States to prevent the risk of genocide from occurring.

Finally, let us recall that, under international humanitarian law, France certainly has the obligation, of course, to respect international humanitarian law within the framework of its own armed operations, but above all it has the obligation to ensure respect for this international law. humanitarian by its allies, its partners.

Sébastien Lecornu invokes Israel's right to self-defense to defend itself...

But no one denies it!

To affirm this means that others deny it.

But no one denies that Israel has the right to self-defense.

However, the right to self-defense cannot be expressed just any way.

And that is the principle of the Arms Trade Treaty.

This is the principle of the common position of the European Union on the arms trade, it is the principle of international law, it is the principle of international humanitarian law: you have the right to defend yourself, but you do not you have no right to defend yourself in any way, you must not target civilians, you must not deliberately target them, you cannot commit indiscriminate attacks, you must not commit disproportionate attacks .

There are these three mantras of international humanitarian law to respect.

On the other hand, France has the obligation to prevent the commission of crimes under international law that would be committed by Israel.

And it is committed to this through the Arms Trade Treaty.

The common position is not to export weapons to a country when there is a risk that people could commit or facilitate war crimes, crimes against humanity and thus crimes of genocide.

So, invoking the absolute right to self-defense is absolutely fallacious.

The right to self-defense does not include the possibility of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, or even the crime of genocide.

So, it's burying the debate, and the debate is that self-defense is regulated, it cannot be expressed in any way. 

What was the reaction of the French authorities to Amnesty's letter?

There was no official reaction, we just know that the same day, there was a response to a question written by MP Aurélien Saintoul and in this written response, the government explains that it has partially suspended arms transfers from France to Israel.

That some continued, notably linked to the Israeli Iron Dome.

So, obviously, they would have suspended transfers that could be problematic.

It remains conditional, but the last sentence of this answer is very clear: France has partially suspended its transfers.

Now what is missing is firmer public communication on “why, on what basis we stopped exporting, when precisely we stopped exporting and what we were exporting finally and we decided to stop exporting?

» And then there is the spokesperson's statement last week that arms transfers to Israel are marginal, so there is no reason to stop them. 

But, does France deliver weapons to Israel?

The answer is that we know absolutely nothing, in fact, since the latest official data from the Ministry of the Armed Forces on deliveries to Israel dates back to 2022 and you will only know in 2024 if France has delivered things to Israel and whether it continued.

On the other hand, you will not know if France continued to deliver after October 2023 because the report to Parliament will not necessarily say so.

So we don't know.

We know that Israel is one of France's historical clients.

It was a major supplier during the time of General De Gaulle, then there was the embargo and then, for around twenty years, there has been an arms sales relationship that has existed.

But Israel is actually not a big customer.

But regardless of whether it's a big client, the question is, is there any French material that could be used to commit a crime of genocide in Gaza?

And so it doesn't matter the quantity, what matters is: is there material that can be used?

That's the issue.

Today, we are faced with the opacity, the lack of transparency of the government which ultimately communicates relatively little on the subject and spends its time rather kicking the can down the road and refusing to respond categorically.

Foreign Minister Séjourné spoke in the Foreign Affairs Committee, answering all questions on arms sales from France and Israel: “ 

I will come back to you later with the figures 


But who did he come back to?

It's still crazy, delusional, to assume that it will be in June 2024, when in January the ICJ is talking about the risk of genocide, that we will potentially know if France delivered weapons in 2023 to Israel.

It’s crazy, it’s absurd.

France is not doing itself any favors and is not doing international law any favors.

France is mobilized diplomatically in the Security Council, it calls for a ceasefire.

Yes, France provides humanitarian aid, but what is the point of providing humanitarian aid to save a few thousand people if at the same time we continue to provide military support and provide weapons that could potentially be used to risk genocide?

We save people who we may later help kill.

You have to be consistent!

Public speech must be consistent with its international commitments and, ultimately, with the substance of what it defends.

If you defend a ceasefire, you also necessarily defend a cessation of transfers because it is a cessation of fighting.

So you need consistency. 


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