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Israeli Weapons Manufacturer Selling Guns to Duterte’s Drug War

An Israeli firearms manufacturer is supplying hundreds of assault rifles and other guns to anti-drug police forces in the Philippines.

The Philippines drug war, initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte, has led to an estimated 12,000 deaths since it began in July 2016. Under this directive, police and vigilantes have primarily killed poor people, some of whom were alleged to have sold drugs, some alleged to have used drugs, and some – including dozens of children – who were seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The drug war has been sharply condemned by numerous governments, international institutions, and human rights advocates. Nonetheless, an Israeli firm has begun selling a large quantity of weapons to the Philippine National Police (PNP), who are behind a large number of the killings – including the notorious public execution of a teenager in 2017. The first sales began months after Duterte compared himself to Hitler, and boasted that his drug war would be similar to the Holocaust.

“’If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,’ he said, pausing and pointing to himself. ‘Hitler massacred three million Jews … there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them’”, the Guardian reported at the time.

i24NEWS, an Israeli TV channel, has procured documents that indicate Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI) began supplying weaponry to Philippines counternarcotic agencies in June 2017. This includes the provision of 313 assault rifles and 1,920 pistols to the PNP, as well as 560 assault rifles to the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

IWI is one of the world’s largest firearms manufacturers, and was owned by the Israeli government until 2005. The government’s approval was required for the weapons sales to the PNP and PDEA.

Carlos Conde, the Philippines researcher at Human Rights Watch, condemned the move: “Given this incontrovertible fact that the PNP and PDEA are involved in mass human rights violations related to the drug war, this deal selling firearms cannot be interpreted as anything else than an endorsement of this human rights catastrophe”.

The Philippines has also purchased weapons from other countries, including the US, although these arms were explicitly earmarked for counterterrorism efforts in southern Philippines – where the government is battling militant groups – rather than for the drug war.

President Duterte is scheduled to visit Israel in September, which would make him the first Filipino president to do so.

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