Israel and Sri Lanka keep strong diplomatic, economic and military ties. Israel’s arms export to Sri Lanka includes among others Kfir fighter jets, patrol ships, missile boats, drones and anti-ship missiles. Israeli arms, including air and maritime vehicles were actively used in the Sri Lankan Civil war against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and were involved in many human right abuses, including the killing of hundreds of civilians.
Israel-Sri Lanka Relations
Israel and Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations in 1984. After being suspended in 1990, Sri Lanka restored the diplomatic ties in the year 2000. According to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Israel, Israel assisted Sri Lanka on agriculture, defense and technology.THE STRONG DIPLOMATIC TIES BETWEEN SRI LANKA AND ISRAEL Then-Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (who became the Sri Lankan Prime-Minister in 2019) visited Israel in January 2014. His brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lankan president since 2019, visited Israel three times when he was Secretary of Defence.Israel says keen to share tech with Sri Lanka
Gotabaya Rajapaksa was leading the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in the conflict against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) under the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Donald Perera, who served as Sri Lankan chief of staff during the Sri Lankan offensive against the Tamil rebels served as the Sri Lankan ambassador in Israel between the years 2009-2012.
In 2007 Israel and Sri Lanka signed a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement. In 2014 bilateral trade between the countries surged by 178% and stood on $175.63m, leading exports from Israel being diamonds, filaments and chemicals.SRI LANKA’S BILATERAL TRADE WITH ISRAEL SURGES 178% SINCE TRADE PACT IN 2007 In 2012 the Israel Business Development Office (IBDO) was established in Sri Lanka in order to facilitate trade, investment, technology transfer, services and tourism between the two countries. In 2014 Sri Lanka signed an agreement that extended the operations of IBDO.Operations of the Israel Business Development Office in Sri Lanka extended Israel and Sri Lanka developed cooperation and ties to strengthen economic business relationships in agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, energy and water.Israeli Delegation to visit Sri Lanka-An island of business opportunities
Israel stands out in regards to the scope of weapons provided to Sri Lanka, reaching hundreds of millions of USD.Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers: Conflict and Legitimacy
The Sri Lankan army purchased advanced night vision and communications technology, artillery-coordination systems, and Gabriel sea-to-sea missiles. In addition, it acquired drones and ground stations, flak jackets, ammunition, thousands of Uzi submachine guns and Galil assault weapons, mortars, and 155-mm cannons. Later it acquired patrol and missile boats (the Sa’ar, the Shaldag, the Dvora, and the Super Dvora). By increasing its operational range through Israeli vessels, the Sri Lankan navy was able to fight the Tamil Tigers’ naval force, as the Tamils used the sea as the main channel for smuggling weapons and operatives from India.Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers: Conflict and Legitimacy In the year 2000 Israel was reported to have secretly carried out its first test launches of Popeye Turbo missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads from two submarines near Sri Lanka’s coast in the Indian Ocean.Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers: Conflict and Legitimacy
As for the Sri Lankan air force, in 1995 it purchased the first Kfir Fighter Jets, and in 2000, it was reported that more jets had been purchased. The 16 Israeli jets played a pivotal role: one of the Kfir squadrons logged more than 2,800 operational flight hours and released over 3,500 tons of bombs. The Sri Lankan ambassador to Israel confirmed that pilots from his country had received training in Israel,Sri Lankan ambassador: We back Israel’s war on terror and a spokesman for the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington even stated that Israeli pilots had actually flown the planes.Tamil secession ruled out
In December 2017 news agencies reported that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is in talks to upgrade the Kfir fighter aircrafts of the Sri Lankan air force.
Regarding training of Sri Lankan forces in Israel, the Sri Lankan Navy reported that they participated in training courses and seminars in Israel, including a Missile Vessel Commanders courses and Fast-Missile-Boats Training. Other officers attended trainings on Gabriel Mark II missiles. Israel also provided training to Sri Lankan Special Task Forces, operating for the police.Israel advises Sri Lanka on slow-motion genocide
In 2018 Sri Lankan emergency teams were trained by Israel in a special program to prepare for possible mass-casualty incidents, including large scale attacks. Members of the military, police force, search and rescue units and fire departments of Sri Lanka participated in the program.How Israel helped Sri Lanka prepare for mega-attacks))
Usage of Israeli Arms
Kfir Fighter Aircraft
- The Sri Lankan Air Force used Kfir Fighter aircrafts to launch attacks against Tamil separatist targets in rebel-controlled areas of the island
- Kfir ground attack out of Katunayake
- August 2006: Kfir aircrafts took part in bombing of a children’s home compound in Mullaithivu district, killing 61 girls aged 16 to 18, injuring more than 150 girls. Sri Lankan Air Force claimed the place is a LTTE rebel training camp.61 schoolgirls killed, 129 wounded in airstrike
- November 1999: Two Kfir aircrafts bombed a crowded public place in the Tamil town of Puthukkudiyiruppu in the Mullaitivu District killing 21 civilians, injuring 40.21 civilians killed in SLAF attack
- Israeli UAVs have also been used to help carry out human rights abuses. The government of Sri Lanka used Israel’s IAI Super-Scout and Searcher II drones in operations against Tamil Tiger rebels (LTTE) from 1996, when the Sri Lankan Air Force’s No. 11 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron was established.ISRAEL AND THE DRONE WARS: Examining Israel’s production, use and proliferation of UAVs In January 2008 the Sri Lankan government abandoned a truce with the LTTE to pursue victory in a military offensive called the “Humanitarian Operation”, in which it used “some significant advanced surveillance systems in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Israel.”2019 Yearbook | SIPRI
- Sri Lankan Air Force used UAVs for Divisional Commanders to see what was going on in LTTE controlled areas and where to attack. Also Aircraft pilots used the information from the UAVs to get better view of the targets before attacks.HUMANITARIAN OPERATION FACTUAL ANALYSIS JULY 2006 – MAY 2009 | MINISTRY OF DEFENCE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA
- ICG were told that surveillance drones were seen in the sky over Mullvaykkal Hospital on 2 May 2009 while it was being shelled, and multiple civilian targets were shelled in a ‘No Fire Zone’ in Vanni while drones were seen flying over-head.War Crimes in Sri Lanka Meanwhile the Sri Lankan Air Force’s website says that its Israeli-made Searcher MK II drones were among “the key contributors to operational success against the LTTE with 1665.49 operational hours during 265 operational missionsISRAEL AND THE DRONE WARS: Examining Israel’s production, use and proliferation of UAVsNO. 111 UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE (UAV) SQUADRON CELEBRATES 4 YEARS OF SERVICE
- Searcher MK II: Particulary involved in the conflict – No.111 Sqn: operated Searcher reconnaissance UAV out ov Vavuniya AFB.
- Blue Horizon: 111 Sqn operated Blue Horizon UAV.
Dvora Patrol Boats
- The Super Dvora Mark III has been employed by the Sri Lanka Navy to counter LTTE operations at sea.
Human Rights Violations
The Sri Lankan Civil War
The conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has lasted nearly three decades and is one of the longest-running civil wars in Asia. More commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE wants an independent state for the island’s Tamil minority. Following a fierce, year-long military offensive killing over 100,000 civilians and 50,000 fighters from both sides of the conflict. The “Tamil Centre for Human Rights” recorded that from 1983 to 2004, 47,556 Tamil civilians were killed, 25,266 dissapeared, 61,132 were injured and in total 2,390,809 peope were displaced.Recorded figures of Arrests, Killings, Disappearances, Rapes, Displacements and Injuries to Tamils in the North East, Colombo and other regions (1956-2004) During the final months (January 2009 – April 2009) of the war an estimated amount of 10,000 to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed.Up to 40,000 civilians ‘died in Sri Lanka offensive’ On May 18, 2009, the Sri Lankan government declared an end to a 26-year-long armed conflict after committing mass atrocities, including allegations of genocide. A cursory review of the evidence indicates the Sri Lankan government’s intent to destroy the Tamil people, a protected ethnic and national group. The government had a clear and effective strategy of encouraging Tamil civilians in the Vanni region to relocate to the “No Fire Zones” that were then deliberately shelled by the military.A Decade Without Justice for Sri Lanka’s Tamils The atrocities are well-documented, and the military’s intentional shelling of government-designated “No Fire Zones” (NFZs) alone was primarily responsible for killing 70,000–140,000 Tamil civilians,Sri Lanka’s dead and missing: the need for an accounting maiming another 25,000–30,000,Up to 30,000 ‘disabled’ by Sri Lankan shells and displacing at least 300,000.A Decade Without Justice for Sri Lanka’s Tamils
It also purposefully understated the number of Tamil civilians in the Vanni to limit necessary food and medical supplies going into that area and to facilitate the deaths of survivors. Hundreds of Tamil women and girls were raped and sexually mutilated before their execution.ISLAND OF IMPUNITY? Investigation into international crimes in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war Tamil men and women who were detained after crossing into government-controlled areas are still subjected to sexual violence today.“Unbearable treatment”: torture continues despite Sri Lankan government’s promiseA Decade Without Justice for Sri Lanka’s Tamils The continued marginalisation of the Tamil community ensures that a return to violent conflict (at some point down the road) cannot be discounted.Sri Lanka failing on human rights
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, along with his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was named prime minister in 2019, were implicated in numerous human rights violations during their previous years in power from 2005 to 2015, which included a crackdown on journalists and activists. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who then served as defense secretary, was also implicated in war crimes. The in 2019 appointed defense secretary, Gen. Kamal Gunaratne and the current army chief Gen. Shavendra Silva are implicated in alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army, which they commanded.Sri Lanka: Human Rights Gains in Grave Peril | Human Rights Watch
Sri Lanka has not revoked sections 365 and 365A of the penal code, which criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. Some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people—particularly those who are visibly gender non-conforming—face arbitrary arrest, police mistreatment, and discrimination in accessing health care, employment, and housing.
Despite pledges, the government failed to repeal and replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a draconian law widely condemned for including an overly broad definition of terrorism and lengthy administrative detention provisions that have facilitated due process violations, including the use of torture, to obtain confessions.