A court in the Netherlands on Monday ordered the Dutch government to stop exporting parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel, a move that reflected mounting alarm over the heavy civilian toll of Israel’s war in Gaza but was unlikely to have an immediate effect on the military campaign.
The Netherlands hosts a warehouse of U.S.-owned F-35 parts that are exported to countries that operate the fighters. Oxfam and two other human rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government in December, demanding that it halt the exports amid concerns over potential Israeli violations of international law in Gaza.
In an initial ruling in December, a court declined to issue the order, but on Monday a court of appeals in The Hague said it agreed with the rights groups. It gave the Dutch government seven days to stop exporting F-35 parts to Israel.
“The court finds that there is a clear risk that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law,” it said in a ruling.
The Dutch government said it would lodge an appeal with the country’s Supreme Court against the ruling, which came as Prime Minister Mark Rutte was visiting Israel. Israel’s Defense Ministry declined to comment.
More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to health officials there, since Israel launched a retaliatory war against Hamas after the armed group’s deadly Oct. 7 attack. Rights organizations have increasingly called for countries to block weapons exports to Israel to protest how the country is carrying out its offensive — and on Monday the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, suggested the international community should “think about” providing fewer arms.
Analysts said Monday’s ruling would likely have little impact on the Israeli military’s capabilities, noting that it has other weapons at its disposal and that F-35 parts are available elsewhere.
“If one supplier isn’t able to deliver for any reason, the parts can be sourced from another,” said Gareth Jennings, aviation editor at the defense intelligence firm Janes.
For the moment, he added, the Dutch ruling seems to be “a symbolic act rather than one having any meaningful effect on Israel’s F-35 fleet.”
It’s also unclear how much Israel’s operations in Gaza have relied on its F-35, which make up a smaller share of its fighter jets.
“F-15s and F-16s form the backbone of the Israeli Air Force,” said Douglas Barrie, a military aerospace expert at I.I.S.S., calling those jets “the workhorses.”
The F-35, made by the U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, is considered one of the most expensive weapons programs in history. Each jet has a roughly $80 million to $100 million price tag; the aircraft are capable of avoiding enemy radar and use a highly advanced software system.
More than a dozen countries — including Israel, the United States and Britain — own or have placed orders for F-35s. Israel was the first known to have used one in combat, saying in May 2018 that it had used the F-35 in two airstrikes in the Middle East, without specifying the targets.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. In December, American military officials confirmed that the United States had rushed extra support for the fighters to Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks.
“Since early October, the F-35 program has delivered surge support to Israel,” Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt told a House Armed Services subcommittee.
Gabby Sobelman and Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.