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UK facing growing pressure over arms sales to Israel

The killing of foreign aid workers in Gaza has reignited calls for a halt to supply of British weaponry

The UK is facing renewed calls to stop exporting arms to Israel, following the deadly bombing by the country’s military of a humanitarian convoy in Gaza, media outlets are reporting.

On Monday, seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers, mostly foreigners and including three British nationals, were killed by Israeli airstrikes that were purportedly targeting a Hamas militant. The incident has sparked international condemnation.

Peter Ricketts, former national security adviser to then-Prime Minister, now-Foreign Secretary David Cameron, stated on Wednesday in comments on the incident that Britain had now “reached that point.” He urged the UK to send a “signal” to Israel that it has not been taking its obligations under international law seriously enough.

“Sometimes in conflict you get a moment where there is such global outrage that it crystallizes a sense that things can’t go on like this. I hope that this awful incident will serve that purpose,” Ricketts told the BBC.

Britain’s main opposition parties demanded on Wednesday that the Conservative government publish legal advice it has received on whether Israel has broken international humanitarian law during the war in Gaza.

David Lammy, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said “there are very serious accusations that Israel has breached international law.”

He called on the government to “publish the legal advice now,” claiming that “if it says there is a clear risk that UK arms might be used in a serious breach of international humanitarian law, it’s time to suspend the sale of those arms.” 

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not commit to publishing the legal advice, but said that London followed a strict “set of rules, regulations and procedures” over licensing arms exports.

UK ministers say defense sales to Israel were worth about £42 million ($53 million) in 2022. According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, a group lobbying for an end to sales of weapons, the UK has approved at least £474 million ($560 million) in exports to Israel since 2015.

Those exports reportedly include parts for missiles, tanks and combat aircraft, including tires, ejector seats, fan propellers and laser targeting equipment for jets being used in Gaza.

Britain is also involved in making parts for American-made F-35 fighter jets that are used by the Israeli air force, according to arms-control expert Roy Isbister of campaign group Saferworld.

“The UK produces 15% of every F-35, and so if the UK says ‘no’ to exports, that does become significant, and an issue for Israeli capabilities which would risk upsetting the Americans,” Isbister told The National.



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