Spain vows to turn away ships carrying weapons to Israel

One ship believed to be taking explosives to Haifa was refused access to Spanish port

Reports said a vessel carrying explosives, which was denied access to Spanish ports, was destined for the Israeli port of Haifa. Reuters
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Spain will stop any ship carrying weapons to Israel from docking at its ports, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Friday.

Ministers say one such vessel, the Danish-flagged Marianne Danica, has already been stopped as Spain leads calls in Europe for a ceasefire in Gaza.

"The Middle East does not need more weapons. It needs more peace," Mr Albares told Spanish broadcaster RTVE. "If there is a ship bound for Israel with weapons, we are not going to allow the stopover."

There was confusion as activists demanded a second vessel, the Borkum, be stopped from docking in Cartagena over fears it was delivering arms to Israel.

The government said campaigners had got the wrong boat and that the Borkum was heading to the Czech Republic, not the Middle East.

However, left-wingers remained concerned on Friday that the Czech Republic could be an intermediate stop on the way to Israel.

Spain could become a "transit country" for arms shipments to Israel after attacks on shipping on the Red Sea route, said Ione Belarra, the leader of left-wing party Podemos.

Reports said it was carrying 27 tonnes of explosive material from Madras, in India, to the port of Haifa in Israel.

By contrast, the Borkum was carrying ammunition to the Czech Republic for Soviet-era weapons that Israel does not use, the government says.

Mr Albares said Spain has not approved any arms export licences for Israel since the war broke out after the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Arms debate

Pressure is mounting on others in Europe to take a similar stance, with the likes of UK and Germany being challenged in court over arms sales to Israel.

A Dutch court in February ordered the government to halt to export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, prompting similar lawsuits in France and Denmark.

Meanwhile, Germany defeated a bid by Nicaragua to get the International Court of Justice to demand an end to arms sales to Israel.

Spain has been one of the EU's most vocal critics of Israel, suggesting the bloc could cut trade ties if it finds there are human rights breaches in Gaza.

Several EU countries including Spain and Ireland are preparing to recognise a Palestinian state, with an announcement possible as soon as next week.

Updated: May 17, 2024, 1:51 PM