Israeli colonel who backed illegal settlers invited to London arms fair

Arms dealers supplying Israel while it is accused of genocide in Gaza are speaking at the same event as Britain’s top soldier.

22 January 2024
Colonel Yossi Pinto. (Photo: IDF)

Colonel Yossi Pinto. (Photo: IDF)

Two of Israel’s largest weapons manufacturers are attending an arms fair in London this week alongside Britain’s most senior military officers.

Elbit Systems and Rafael make many of the missiles and drones that Israel uses to bomb Gaza.

Both companies have sent staff to speak at the convention. Rafael originally put forward as a speaker its land manoeuvre manager, Yossi Pinto.

He is a colonel on reserve in Israel’s army, whose military career has seen him approve settlement expansion on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Britain regards Israel’s settlement building there to be illegal under international law.

Last month foreign secretary Lord Cameron banned Israelis from entering the UK if they were involved in settler violence.

Pinto was due to speak tomorrow at Twickenham rugby stadium, which is hosting the Defence IQ International Armoured Vehicles Conference – a global gathering of arms dealers and tank manufacturers.

The British army is sending 17 serving soldiers to speak at the event, including its most senior soldier – the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Patrick Sanders.

Another 10 civilians from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are listed as speakers.

Pinto’s name vanished from the lineup on Friday hours after Declassified drew his background to the MoD’s attention. A colleague from Rafael will deliver the speech instead.

Tickets cost over £3,000. A VIP Gala Dinner is planned for Tuesday night, following Rafael’s talk on how to use “remote weapon systems” in an “urban arena”.

They will discuss “precision and effectiveness in close proximity combat”. Rafael makes a machine gun turret for Israeli tanks, among many other armaments.

It comes as 10,000 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel in Gaza over the last 100 days, according to Save the Children.

The International Court of Justice is considering whether Israel has breached the Genocide Convention. If it has, then parties who assist Israel’s military could be treated as accomplices.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Declassified: “With 1,000 delegates from nearly 50 nations in attendance, it is entirely right that the British Army participates in a conference on current and future armoured vehicles.”

Defence IQ did not provide Declassified with press passes to attend the conference. Nor did it answer our questions about whether Pinto’s whereabouts would be referred to the Metropolitan Police’s war crimes unit. 

Rafael was asked to comment.

Who is Colonel Pinto?

Pinto commanded Israel’s Binyamin Brigade in 2013 when he declared part of the West Bank as a closed military zone.

The move favoured settlers and was in defiance of an Israeli High Court ruling that sought to protect Palestinian farmland. 

The incident was documented by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group which has received funding from Britain’s Foreign Office.

Appropriating land during a military occupation is an act of pillage that can be regarded by the International Criminal Court as a war crime.

He went on to serve as Israel’s defence attaché to Greece before joining Rafael.

Pinto was due to speak alongside Rafael’s force protection manager, Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Adler, a fellow reservist.


Why I risked prison to shut Elbit down


Who else is attending?

Their colleague, Timer Gabso, will give a speech on Monday about “lethality for manoeuvring forces using autonomous fleet of UAVs”, or drones.

Israel is using drones with artificial intelligence to identify targets in Gaza, which critics say is leading to vast numbers of civilian casualties.

Gabso will discuss “Beyond Line of Sight Enemy Detection and Neutralization” and “Optimization of Shooter Allocation”.

He is Rafael’s head of marketing in its “multi domain warfare directorate”.

Elbit, which supplies the IDF with 85% of its drones and land warfare equipment, is also sending speakers to Twickenham.

They will discuss the company’s Ironfist technology. This is fitted to armoured vehicles and can intercept incoming RPGs.

It is playing a key role in Israel’s invasion of Gaza, where Palestinian fighters are firing anti-tank rockets in defence of the besieged enclave.

Elbit has factories in the UK which are being targeted by direct action group Palestine Action.

In a recent interview, the group’s co-founder Huda Ammori told Declassified: “What Israel is doing is genocide, and all of those who are arming that genocide are also part and parcel of those crimes against the Palestinian people.”