Israeli defence firms make air show return, tight-lipped on Gaza war

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 10:15 PM

By Joe Brock

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Israel’s defence industry was out in force at the Singapore Airshow this week, making its return after being largely absent from the Dubai air show in November in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, a subject that was off limits at the Asia summit.

The Israeli ministry of defence and 11 of its defence contractors attended Asia’s largest aerospace and defence gathering, including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Elbit Systems.

IAI, Rafael, Elbit and the defence ministry all declined to comment on the war in Gaza, including the performance of their own weapons.

“We don’t discuss weapons,” Ziv Avni, vice president of business development at Elbit, told Reuters at the unveiling of its latest aerial drone, which a placard said could carry “loitering munitions for covert and precise airstrikes”.

Israel has faced criticism and protests over its months-long military campaign in Gaza, which the health ministry there says has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians.

Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The war wasn’t brought up by delegates at the Singapore event and didn’t dampen appetite for Israel’s missiles, spy gear and aerial drones, two Israeli industry officials at the show told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Groups of men in military uniforms, mostly from Asian countries, could regularly be seen shuffling into the booths of Israeli defence companies for conversations.

Unauthorised public assemblies and protests over political situations in other countries are banned in Singapore. But there was some criticism online about Israeli defence firms at the air show.

IAI, Rafael and the Israeli defence ministry did not respond to requests for comment about the online criticism.

The Israeli government has repeatedly defended its military campaign in Gaza as a legitimate defence of its people against Hamas militants, who started the conflict.

(Reporting by Joe Brock. Editing by Gerry Doyle)