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Report: Israel engaged in arms sales to Myanmar's military junta

Newly arrived Rohingya Muslim refugees sit on the roadside after fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar in Ukhiya, September 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Israel continues to sell weapons to Myanmar’s military junta despite the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the state of Rakhine.

The arms sold to the junta reportedly include over 100 tanks and boats as well as other sorts of weapon.

Israeli arms companies such as TAR Ideal Concepts have also been involved in training Myanmar’s special forces, who are currently in Rakhine, where most of the violence against the Rohingya Muslims has taken place. Images posted on the company's website showed its staff instructing members of Myanmar’s forces on combat tactics and how to use specific weapons.

The Israeli High Court of Justice is expected to hear a petition launched by activists, urging the Tel Aviv regime to stop arms exports to Myanmar. Eitay Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer presenting the petition, said, referring to Myanmar, “Israel has no control of what's happening with its weapons once it sends its weapons to Burma.” "But from TAR Ideal’s website, we know that they are arming and training Burmese special forces who are operating in the Rakhine state right now." The petition was submitted in January, following visits by Israeli authorities to Myanmar to discuss arms deals. Reacting to the petition, the Israeli ministry of military affairs in March said the court had no jurisdiction over the issue and claimed that arms sales to Myanmar were "clearly diplomatic."

The Israeli regime has shared a strong relationship with Myanmar and maintained trade ties over the years. In September 2015, one of the heads of the junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, visited Israel on a “shopping trip” of Israeli military manufacturers. His delegation met with President Reuven Rivlin as well as military officials, including the army’s chief of staff. 

In the summer of 2015, Michel Ben-Baruch, the head of the Israeli ministry of military affairs' International Defense Cooperation Directorate, better known by its Hebrew acronym SIBAT, went to Myanmar. In the course of the visit, the heads of the junta disclosed that they had purchased Super Dvora patrol boats from Israel, and there was talk of additional purchases.

The undated photo shows General Min Aung Hlaing (R), one of the heads of Myanmar's military junta, shaking hands with an Israeli military official in Tel Aviv.

Penny Green, the director of the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University, recently said many governments "have lent their support to the current genocide" in Myanmar. "It's not at all surprising that the latest escalation in Myanmar's genocide of the Rohingya has not moved Israel to cease its supply of weapons to Myanmar's military," said Green, an academic who has documented alleged war crimes against the Rohingya.

Commenting on the Israeli weapons sales to Myanmar, Green said Israel's "own record of violence and terror against the Palestinian people of Gaza is clear enough evidence" that Tel Aviv "is unmoved by ethical concerns and human rights."

Ofer Neiman, an Israeli human rights activist, said Israeli cabinets "have been selling arms to the military dictatorship in Burma for years."

"This policy is strongly related to Israel's oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Weapons used against the Palestinians are being sold as 'field-tested' to some of the worst regimes on the planet."

Palestinians protest as Israeli troops arrive to demolish houses in the village of Khashm al-Daraj, south of the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), August 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The latest round of violence in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine has killed more than 400 people and triggered an exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh.

The UN believes the government of Myanmar might have committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in its crackdown.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar were facing a risk of ethnic cleansing.

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Myanmar’s government brands more than one million Rohingya Muslims in the country as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. Rohingya Muslims, however, have had roots in the country that go back centuries. They are considered by the UN as the “most persecuted minority group in the world.”

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