15th July 2009
The UK has revoked five export licences for equipment to the Israeli navy because of actions during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza this year in which 1,400 Palestinians including 280 children were killed.
The British Foreign office said the exports would now contravene its criteria for arms sales, but denied that it had imposed a partial embargo.
The UK says it does not sell weapons which might be used for internal repression or external aggression.
Israel says its troops complied fully with international law during missions.
The embargo followed a government review of all British defense exports to Israel, which was announced three months ago. In total, the telegram said, Britain reviewed 182 licenses for arms exports to Israel, including 35 for exports to the Israel Navy. But it ultimately decided to cancel only five licenses, all relating to the Sa’ar 4.5 ships. The licenses in question apparently cover spare parts for the ship’s guns.
The British said the embargo was imposed because these ships participated in Operation Cast Lead. In so doing, the British claimed, they violated the security agreements between Britain and Israel, which specify what uses may be made of British equipment.
Last week, Britain’s foreign and defense ministries informed the relevant companies that they would have to cease their planned arms deals with Israel’s navy.
Ever since the Gaza operation, British MPs and nongovernmental organizations have been trying to persuade London to impose a complete arms embargo on Israel. However, the British government has rejected this demand.
Amnesty human rights report
In February, Amnesty International published a report on arms sales to Israel in which it highlighted Britain’s role in supplying engines for Hermes 450 drones. According to Amnesty, Israel uses these drones to conduct assassinations in Gaza. The report prompted the Palestinian organization Al-Haq to file a suit against the British government, arguing that British arms sales facilitate Israeli operations in Gaza.
In April, Foreign Secretary David Miliband informed Parliament that Britain would reexamine all its defense exports to Israel in light of Operation Cast Lead. An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that since then, Britain’s military attache in Israel has requested information on the uses Israel made of various types of British-supplied equipment during Cast Lead.
Foreign Ministry officials said that only a small percentage of Israel’s defense-related imports come from Britain. According to data suppled by Britain’s department of trade, these sales total some 20 million pounds.