Government lifts remaining restrictions on arms sales to Israel after year-long review

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge cost more than 2,000 lives last summer

Cahal Milmo
Thursday 16 July 2015 16:06 BST
Iran's Iron Dome air-defense system fires to intercept a rocket over the city of Ashdod in July 2014
Iran's Iron Dome air-defense system fires to intercept a rocket over the city of Ashdod in July 2014 (Getty Images)

The Government has lifted any remaining restrictions on arms sales to Israel following a year-long review of 12 export licences for weaponry which it admitted may have been used in last year’s bombardment of Gaza.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s department said it was now satisfied that the licences for material including components for military radar and tanks meet the UK’s export criteria, which ban any sale of arms where there is a “clear risk” that they may be used to commit serious breaches of human rights.

The Coalition government was forced to review its weaponry sales to Israel during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge to halt Hamas rocket attacks, which cost more than 2,000 lives, including those of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Britain’s subsequent refusal to suspend the 12 licences led to the resignation of Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi, who said Britain’s stance was “morally indefensible”.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) last year announced a further review of weaponry sales to Israel as a result of which it yesterday said it would now apply its normal “criteria” to all exports and was lifting its previous threat that licences would be suspended in the event of fresh hostilities between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

In a statement, BIS said: “Following the review the Government has concluded that in the present context where the facts are clearer these criteria may now be applied, without any additional measures.”

The Independent revealed last month that Britain approved fresh arms deals with Israel worth £4m within weeks of the end of the Gaza conflict, with the first licence being granted within six days of the announcement of a ceasefire.

Campaigners said the Government’s investigation had failed to pinpoint the extent of the use of British weaponry in the most recent and previous conflicts.

Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “This is an exceptionally weak and tokenistic review, and it is unclear why it has taken almost a year to complete. Successive governments have said it is likely that UK arms were used against the people of Gaza in 2009 and 2014.”

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