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Dutch appeals court orders Netherlands to stop exports of F-35 parts to Israel, citing war in Gaza

The decision came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the conflict

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, February 12, 2024.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, February 12, 2024.ABIR SULTAN (EFE)

An appeals court ordered the Dutch government on Monday to halt the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, citing a clear risk of violations of international law.

A trio of human rights organizations brought a civil suit against the Netherlands in December, arguing authorities needed to reevaluate the export license in light of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

“It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” Judge Bas Boele said in reading out the ruling, eliciting cheers from several people in the courtroom. The exports must cease within seven days.

The decision came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the conflict. Rutte was also expected to separately meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government would appeal. “It is up to the state to shape its foreign policy,” Geoffrey van Leeuwen, the minister for foreign trade and development said in a statement. In the meantime, van Leeuwen said his office would abide by the export ban.

“We are extremely grateful that there is justice and that the court was willing to speak out on justice,” lead lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told reporters after the hearing.

Oxfam Novib, Pax Nederland and The Rights Forum filed the case in December. They argued the continued transfer of the aircraft parts makes the Netherlands complicit in possible war crimes being committed by Israel in its war with Hamas.

In January, a lower court sided with the government, allowing the Dutch to continue sending U.S.-owned parts stored at a warehouse in the town of Woensdrecht to Israel. The Netherlands is home to one of three F-35 European regional warehouses.

Other countries are also considering restricting weapons sales to Israel. Human rights groups in the United Kingdom have brought a similar suit against their government, attempting to block weapons exports to Israel.

In the United States, Democrats in the Senate are pushing a bill that would require President Joe Biden to get congressional approval before greenlighting weapons sales to Israel.

Late last month, the U.N. top court ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza. Although that decision was made after the appeal in the Dutch case was heard, the groups’ lawyers say judges likely considered the legally binding order from the International Court of Justice.

The decision left some room for Dutch authorities to export parts of the aircraft being used in operations other than Gaza.

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