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UK government is complicit in Israel war crimes against Palestine protesters, says British campaign group

'The UK government is deeply complicit in some of the most devastating state violence in our time'

Samuel Osborne
Monday 18 June 2018 09:15 BST
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Palestinian protesters flee from Israeli tear gas at a demonstration in May
Palestinian protesters flee from Israeli tear gas at a demonstration in May (Reuters)

The British government is “complicit in the violence” suffered by the Palestinians because it continues to support arms sales to Israel, a UK-based anti-poverty charity has said.

Over 120 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,800 injured by Israeli army fire since near-weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border began on 30 March.

Britain abstained from a United Nations vote which condemned Israel’s “use of any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against the demonstrators.

Ryvka Barnard, senior campaigns officer for War on Want, told The Independent: “In abstaining from this vote, the UK government has yet again refused to commit to the protection of Palestinians’ human rights as they are targeted with the brutal and unlawful use of force by the Israeli military.

“But make no mistake, the UK is not sitting aside and remaining neutral. While the world calls for violent attacks on Palestinians to end, the UK government continues to approve arms exports to Israel, making it complicit in the violence.”

The UN General Assembly adopted the resolution with 120 votes in favour, eight against and 45 abstentions.

The resolution decried the “use of live ammunition against civilian protesters, including children, as well as medical personnel and journalists” and underscored its “grave concern at the loss of innocent lives”.

It also condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas, but did not mention Hamas, the Islamist group which governs in Gaza.

Nikki Haley says no country would have used more restraint than Israel in killing 60 protesters

The United States failed in a bid to amend the resolution with a paragraph which would have condemned Hamas violence.

“By supporting this resolution you are colluding with a terrorist organisation, by supporting this resolution you are empowering Hamas,” Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, told the General Assembly before the vote.

It came after a similar resolution at the Security Council was vetoed by the United States. The country’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said it was “fundamentally imbalanced” and “grossly one-sided”.

The overwhelming majority of those killed and wounded in the protests were unarmed, according to Human Rights Watch, which said the use of lethal force may constitute war crimes.

The rights group said eyewitnesses reported seeing Palestinians shot from a great distance from border fences, and others who “had not thrown stones or otherwise tried to harm Israeli soldiers” being shot from a closer range.

It said they posed no immediate threat to Israeli troops or civilians, and as such the use of live fire could be in violation of international law.

War on Want called on the UK government to “stop its material support for war crimes abroad”.

Ms Barnard said: “Over 50 MPs across parties have called for the UK to suspend arms exports to Israel, representing the views of over 5,000 people who have called on them to do so.

“Whether it’s the British weapons used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, or those used by Israel in war crimes against Palestinians, the UK government is deeply complicit in some of the most devastating state violence in our time.

“The UK must implement its own export guidelines, and stop its material support for war crimes abroad.”

​In response, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “The Government takes its defence exports responsibilities extremely seriously and operates some of the most robust export controls in the world.

“We only approve equipment which is for Israel’s legitimate self defence and where we are satisfied it would be consistent with the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and other relevant commitments.

“We continue to assess the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and take into account the latest circumstances when assessing licence applications.”

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