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Stop US shipment of fuel to Israel’s armed forces as evidence of Gaza war crimes mounts

4th August 2014, 10:36:14 UTC

Amnesty International is appealing to the US government to immediately halt the transfer of a US fuel shipment currently on its way to Israel for use by the Israeli military. The organization has repeatedly called for a comprehensive arms embargo on all parties to the conflict, amidst mounting evidence that war crimes are being committed by both sides in the past four weeks in Gaza.

The US government has continued to supply hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel, including fuel for fighter jets and military vehicles, to Israel’s armed forces despite a soaring civilian death toll from aerial and other military attacks. The last US jet fuel delivery arrived in Israel on 14 July, a week after the conflict began. Nine previous shipments were made from the US to Israel during 2013 and 2014. A fuel tanker with the latest US fuel shipment is now sailing past the Azores and is due to arrive in Israel on 12 August.

“By continuing to supply fuel for military vehicles and fighter jets being used in attacks resulting in mounting civilian deaths and horrific injuries, the US government will have more blood on its hands,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

By continuing to supply fuel for military vehicles and fighter jets being used in attacks resulting in mounting civilian deaths and horrific injuries, the US government will have more blood on its hands

Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International

“Instead of continuing to send shipments of fuel and arms to the Israeli military, the USA must immediately suspend all such transfers and back an international investigation into the atrocities being carried out by both sides.”

According to documents provided to Amnesty International by TransArms in Chicago and the International Peace Information Service in Antwerp, on 23 July 2014 the US-flagged oil tanker, the “Overseas Mykonos”, left the port of Corpus Christi, Texas, after departing from Houston for its declared destination of Ashkelon, where there is a major oil terminal just north of the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defence Forces’ relentless air and land assault has caused overwhelming destruction since the offensive began on 8 July. Thousands of homes have been destroyed and civilian buildings have been damaged, including medical facilities and vital infrastructure. So far more than 1,800 Palestinians have died, the vast majority of them civilians, including more than 440 children. At least 64 Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and one Thai national have also been killed as Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups continue to fire indiscriminate rockets into Israel.

With no permanent end to the hostilities in sight, Amnesty International is calling on all other states to immediately impose a comprehensive arms embargo on all the parties to the conflict in Gaza.

“The USA and Iran are both guilty of enabling violations of international law by providing military support to the conflicting parties. Without the supply of military technologies neither side in the Gaza conflict could have repeatedly violated international law with impunity on such a scale. Until violators on both sides are held accountable, no shipments of military supplies that can be used for serious violations should be permitted,” said Brian Wood.

Amnesty International is calling for the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be referred to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

US fuel shipments to Israel

Transport documents provided to Amnesty International show that the “Overseas Santorini” and its sister ship “Overseas Mykonos” docked at Ashkelon oil terminal in Israel at least 10 times since January 2013  – including six times since January 2014 – delivering a total of 277,000 tons of jet fuel (or 101 million gallons) supplied by the US government to the Israeli Armed Forces. The Athens-based company, OSG Ship Management (GR) Ltd, managed both tankers.

Seven days after Israel began air attacks on Gaza in “Operation Protective Edge” on 8 July, the most recent consignment of jet fuel was delivered by a US-flagged oil tanker, the “Overseas Santorini”. The tanker departed from Corpus Christi in Texas on 21 June 2014 and arrived in Ashkelon on 14 July 2014 carrying 26,000 tons (or 9.6 million gallons) of jet fuel under a contract with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Energy.

The US Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLA Energy), the US agency responsible for the procurement and distribution of various types of fuel to the US armed forces and their allies, shipped nine of the 10 jet fuel voyages to Israel during 2013 and 2014. The other voyage was overseen by the “Government of Israel” via its Consulate in New York.

In recent years, DLA Energy has awarded contracts worth hundreds of million dollars to US energy companies for the provision of jet fuel to Israel’s armed forces, in particular to a subsidiary firm of San Antonio-based Valero Energy.

In October 2013, DLA Energy awarded a Texas based company, Valero Marketing and Supply Co., a maximum $331 million contract for the delivery of aviation turbine fuel for the military service of Israel, and awarded Petromax LLC, based in Bay City, TX, a contract for delivery of automotive gasoline for the military service of Israel.

Previously Valero Marketing and Supply Co. had been awarded a maximum $246 million contract during 2013 for delivery of aviation fuel to the Israeli military. When contacted by Amnesty International, a spokesperson for Valero responded that it was not Valero’s policy to discuss the details of its supply contracts. OSG Ship Management and Petromax have not responded to letters from Amnesty International.

On 16 April 2013 the US Congress was notified that the Israeli government had requested 864 million gallons of JP-8 (“jet propulsion”) aviation fuel to the value of $2.7 million stating that: “the United States is committed to the security of Israel.” JP-8 fuel is used for jet fighter aircraft such as the US-manufactured F-16 jets which have been used by the Israeli air force during the current military operation in Gaza, as well as certain other aircraft, attack helicopters, tanks and other ground military vehicles depending on the type of their engine

F-16 jets are deployed by at least 12 units of the Israel’s defense force. Israel has procured more than 300 F-16s since the 1980s and over 170 are reportedly in active service.

Under the US Foreign Assistance Act no security assistance may be provided to “any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”. However, successive US administrations have used a clause in the Act that allows the President to continue its supplies to Israel in “extraordinary circumstances”.

“By persistently turning a blind eye to the devastating human cost of its immense arms and military fuel shipments to Israel, the USA is brazenly flouting basic human rights principles,” said Brian Wood.