Israel imports crude oil to feed refineries in Ashdod and Haifa, as well as refined products that are used domestically as fuel or in some cases re-exported. Some fuel from refineries goes directly to the armed forces. Much of the rest appears to go to ordinary gas stations for domestic use – and for military personnel, who can refuel their vehicles under a government contract.

By Nina Lakhani

Israeli jets and tanks bombarding Palestinians are being fueled by some of the world’s most profitable fossil fuel companies – and US tax-payers, according to research.

Israel relies on crude oil and refined products from overseas to run its large fleet of fighter jets, tanks and other military vehicles.

The research, which was commissioned by the non-profit Oil Change International and shared exclusively with the Guardian, examines this fuel supply chain, which since the current conflict in Gaza began appears to have relied heavily on fossil fuels from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil, Gabon and the US.

The analysis by Data Desk, a UK-based tech consultancy firm investigating the fossil fuel industry, suggests the major oil companies facilitating the fuel supplies include BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Eni, Shell and TotalEnergies.

The analysis suggests that Israel has received three US tankers of JP8 jet fuel in the form of military aid since October 2023. One left the US before the current assault on Gaza began, departing from the Bill Greehey refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, on 22 September.

Vessels delivering oil and fuel recently appear to have been turning off their automatic identification system (AIS) signal before reaching Israel, possibly for security reasons.

The other two departed after the conflict was underway: one appears to have departed on 6 December 2023, when more than 16,000 Palestinians had already been killed. The third left Texas on 9 February 2024 – two weeks after the International Court of Justice’s interim ruling that Israel could plausibly be committing genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza. A satellite image appears to show the tanker at Israel’s Ashkelon terminal on 6 March, when the Palestinian death toll had risen to 30,000.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has continued since the ICJ ordered the Israeli government to prevent any genocidal act. The ICJ ruling has legal implications for countries and corporations, which must ensure they are not complicit in genocidal acts.

Human rights experts said that countries and corporations supplying oil to Israeli armed forces may be complicit in war crimes and genocide.

“The countries and companies that have continued to supply oil to the Israeli military since the decision of the International Court of Justice are contributing to horrible human rights violations and may be complicit in genocide,” said David Boyd, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

“Oil firms must ensure they’re not in the business of helping to entrench Israel’s apartheid system or fuelling war crimes and possible genocide in Gaza,” said Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs director, adding that it was incumbent on every company with commercial ties to the Israeli military to do “due diligence”.

Israel rejected the ICJ interim ruling, calling it “outrageous”. The White House said the ruling would not change US policy on Gaza or Israel. Each year the US provides $3.6bn on average to Israel in military aid, and the Biden administration has requested an additional $14.3bn from Congress since the current conflict began.

“Countries and major oil companies fuelling Israel’s war machine are complicit in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. By directly fuelling Israel’s military, on top of over a hundred other weapons sales, the US in particular must be held accountable for potential violations of international law,” said Allie Rosenbluth, the US program manager at Oil Change International.

During the past five months, Israel has dropped tens of thousands of bombs on the Gaza Strip, as well as carrying out ground assaults across the occupied territory. The current assault was in response to an attack on Israel by Hamas on 7 October which left almost 1,200 people dead. More than 100 Israeli hostages continue to be held captive by Hamas.

At least 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, with tens of thousands more injured or missing under the rubble, presumed dead. By February, at least 12,300 children had been killed, and more than half of Gaza’s buildings destroyed or damaged, including critical infrastructure like water and sanitation plants, schools and hospitals. Palestinians are dying from deliberate starvation, UN experts say, as Israeli troops block humanitarian aid and target food sources, as well as people waiting for food.

Israel is a small country with a relatively large army and air force. It has no operational cross-border fossil fuel pipelines and relies heavily on maritime oil imports.

The Data Desk analysis draws on ship positions, commodity trade flows, information from port authorities, shipbrokers and satellite imagery, as well as financial and media reports. Evidence suggests there is a significant overlap between the civilian and military fuel supply chains.

Israel imports crude oil to feed refineries in Ashdod and Haifa, as well as refined products that are used domestically as fuel or in some cases re-exported. Some fuel from refineries goes directly to the armed forces. Much of the rest appears to go to ordinary gas stations for domestic use – and for military personnel, who can refuel their vehicles under a government contract.

Apart from the US jet fuel, virtually all other shipments of refined petroleum products to Israel have dried up since October 2023, perhaps reflecting the broader Red Sea crisis.

Crude oil supply to Israel has remained more or less stable, apart from a dip in January.

The analysis found:

  • More than 1,440 kilotonnes (kt) of crude oil from Azerbaijan appears to have been sent to Israel since October 2023. Azeri crude is delivered via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which terminates in Ceyhan, Turkey, where it is loaded onto tankers. Azerbaijan is hosting the annual UN climate talks this year, Cop29.
  • BP is the main operator and largest shareholder of BTC, and produces some of the Caspian Sea crude oil delivered by the pipeline, together with an Azeri national oil company. BTC minority partners include TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil.
  • Two shipments of Brazilian crude totalling 260kt appear to have been delivered to Israel since the start of its invasion of Gaza. The first tanker appears to have moored and offloaded its cargo at a pipeline terminal south of Ashkelon that supplies the Haifa and Ashdod refineries in December, the second in February 2024, according to signaling data and satellite images. The crude was supplied from offshore fields co-owned by Shell, TotalEnergies and Petrobras.

Total and Shell declined to comment. A spokesperson for Petrobras said that it did not “deliver any cargoes of crude oil from its production to Israel in December 2023 and 2024”.

The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been one of the sharpest critics of Israel, accusing the state of committing genocide against the Palestinian people. Lula withdrew Brazil’s ambassador to Israel but has not issued a ban on oil exports.

  • The data also suggests that at least 600kt of Kazakh/Russian crude oil has been sent to Israel via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline since October 2023. CPC oil is a blend from major offshore oil fields in the Caspian Sea, as well as smaller onshore fields in southern Russia.
  • Chevron has the largest stake among international oil majors in the CPC, followed by ExxonMobil and Shell. These fossil fuel companies also partly own the oilfields feeding the pipeline. The majority of the CPC supply is produced in Kazakhstan and has not been sanctioned, unlike Russia’s crude.
  • Russia appears to have also continued regular shipments of vacuum gas oil (VGO), a low-grade fuel oil mostly upgraded into jet fuel and diesel via hydrocracking. Russian VGO is shipped from ports in the Black Sea.
  • The data also suggests that four shipments carrying more than 120kt of VGO departed Russia for Israel after the ICJ ordered Israel to take all possible measures to prevent genocide. The flow of Russian VGO has been severely affected by a European Union ban that came into force in February 2023.

Ship position data (AIS) shows the ships heading directly for the port of Haifa, where the refinery has equipment to upgrade VGO, with at least one signalling the port as its intended destination. The others signalled their destination as a ship-to-ship transfer zone used by Egypt and Israel in the eastern Mediterranean. Some tankers delivering oil and fuel appear to turn off their radar signals before reaching Israel.

The data also suggests that Israel receives relatively small but regular shipments of crude via the Sumed pipeline. This pipeline transports crude from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – all of which have criticised Israel’s military assault in Gaza.

“The BDS [boycott, divestment, sanctions] movement, which is already targeting Chevron with a growing global boycott and divestment campaign, will expose and target the complicit states and corporations mentioned in this valuable report,” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee. “States and companies that continue to provide Israel with fuel for its military forces are directly complicit in supporting its ongoing genocide. We shall never forgive them for that.”

The governments of the US, Brazil, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan did not respond to requests for comment. BP, Chevron and Exxon also did not respond. –

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