EU-Italy talks to tackle fears Israeli strike on Gaza strip used C-19

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Ethiopia strikes deal with UK and Italy to deploy unusual version of the same munition used against Israelis in 2009

Talks between the EU, the UK and Italy are to begin over European governments’ fears that the use of the advanced, non-conventional munition known as C-19 could be used against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

C-19 was brought to prominence earlier this year when Israel struck an armed Palestinian group in the south Gaza Strip after it infiltrated its territory, a tactic known as “leakage” in which the attackers get in and then take off again.

The munition is the type used in the strike and targeted at ranges of 500 metres or more and it can range up to one kilometre.

One variant of the munition is known as C-19-6. It is based on a compressed gas explosion that achieves its blistering impact while exploding from a depth of 1.5 metres.

The Italian defence ministry is expected to deploy the munition against militants in southern Africa and the UK is also seeking a deal.

Before buying any ammunition from Italy, the UK has mandated that an expert evaluate its potential use against civilians in conflict zones such as Palestine.

The paper on the mortar munition was presented at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London on Tuesday.

Sources said the research by IISS had given serious cause for concern among those responsible for Italian defence contracts.

The source said that one part of the research had concluded that the weapon had an unpredictable effect – it could explode somewhere else or up to 500 metres beyond the nearest human target.

What would constitute collateral damage was a concern the paper had raised.

Italy’s defence minister, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, earlier this year announced the £225m contract to supply British with 6,500 of the munitions over a three-year period. The UK’s first order is reportedly for 7,000 of the munitions.

Italy and the UK recently strengthened defence ties in a bid to counter what it sees as an increasingly militarised foreign policy of Donald Trump.

Last month, Moavero Milanesi said: “This has been a central pillar of the UK’s defence policy for many years and will remain so as Britain is preparing to leave the EU.”

Asked by the Guardian what would happen if C-19 were used in Palestinian territory, Moavero Milanesi said he was confident it would be prevented.

“The UK will therefore reinforce the mission with an international perspective,” he said.

But Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus dismissed the use of C-19.

“There have been many allegations that we have used the C-19. This is absolutely untrue,” he said.

“We are one of the most powerful militaries in the world and we have very sophisticated weapons systems and we don’t need any more.”

But one senior IDF officer who asked not to be named said that if it was proven C-19 had been used it would change the way Israelis saw the conflict and potentially encourage an accelerated use of such weapons.

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