Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gaza War Fuels UK Arms Review Call

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
20:55 Mecca time, 17:55 GMT

Gaza war fuels UK arms review call

Israel's war on Gaza led to the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis

A committee of British members of parliament has called for a review of future arms sales after it emerged that components supplied by Britain to Israel were highly likely to have been used during the war on Gaza last year.

The parliamentary committee on strategic export controls expressed regret after discovering that arms exports from the UK were "almost certainly" used by Israel during Operation Cast Lead.

In a report released on Tuesday, the MPs said: "It is regrettable that arms exports to Israel were almost certainly used in Operation Cast Lead.

"This is in direct contravention to the UK government's policy that UK arms exports to Israel should not be used in the Occupied Territories."

'Lessons' learnt

The report recommends that the British government "set out clearly the longer term lessons learnt post Operation Cast Lead and how they will impact in practice on the issuing of future licences for arms exports to Israel."

After the attack on Gaza, David Miliband, Britain's foreign minister, told parliament that British made components were "almost certainly" used in F-16 fighter planes and Apache helicopters sold by the US to Israel.

Parts of armoured personnel carriers and Israeli naval vessels used in the conflict were also said to have been sourced to British producers.

Israel's offensive on Gaza resulted in the deaths of about 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

It also left the impoverished territory in virutal ruins followed sustained Israeli air raids.

Thirteen Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in the 22-day conflict.

After the Israeli assault on Gaza, the British government reviewed more than 180 pending arms licences destined for the country.

Five licences for equipment to be supplied to the Israeli navy were revoked as a result of the review.

But campaign groups in the UK are calling for a complete embargo on British arms sales to Israel.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade says that "the only effective action would be the immediate imposition of embargo on arms and components going to Israel, whether directly or through incorporation into weaponry produced in third countries".

During 2008, the year running up to the war on Gaza, the UK approved arms licences to Israel worth $41.3m, as well as providing the components for US-made weapons destined for Israel.

This figure fell after the conflict, with the MPs noting that the UK currently provides less than one per cent of all military supplies exported to Israel.

Most of the equipment Britain supplies to Israel is components, rather than full weapons systems, although recently approved licences have included small arms ammunition and parts for sniper rifles.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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