European And Israeli Arms Fuelling South Sudan Conflict: U.N.

South Sudan soldiers
South Sudanese government soldiers celebrate while standing in trenches in Lelo, outside Malakal, South Sudan, October 16, 2016. ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN/AFP/Getty Images

European and Israeli arms are fuelling the civil war in South Sudan, which is under threat of a United Nations arms embargo, according to an expert report.

The confidential report, compiled by a U.N. panel of experts and sent to the U.N. Security Council earlier in October, described the arms networks in Eastern Europe and the Middle East that have facilitated the transfer of weapons to the African country, according to AFP.

South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013, after President Salva Kiir accused then Vice-President Riek Machar of plotting a coup. A peace agreement was signed in August 2015, but a fresh round of fighting in July has pitted the rival sides against each other once more.

The U.N. Security Council has threatened to impose an arms embargo on the country, but Russia and other African countries have resisted the pressure.

The expert report detailed arms deals dating back to 2014, involving firms from countries including Bulgaria and Israel. While the arms deals are not new, the arms themselves are likely to still be in circulation—forces loyal to Machar recently appeared in Democratic Republic of Congo, armed with Israeli-made automatic rifles that were sold to Uganda in 2007. The rebel forces likely took the weapons from South Sudanese government troops, according to the report.

The report said that the evidence "illustrates the well-established networks through which weapons procurement is coordinated from supplies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and then transferred through middlemen in eastern Africa to South Sudan."

The experts are also investigating an arms trafficking network based in Europe and working through a Senegalese middleman that received a list of weapons and munitions from the rebels in 2014. The report also detailed the sale of 4,000 assault rifles by a Bulgarian firm to an intermediary in Uganda. The arms were later transferred to South Sudan.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan since the civil war began, and more than 2 million people have been driven from their homes. The conflict has also been marked by brutal human rights abuses, including widespread rape and cases of forced cannibalism.