Sunday, July 21, 2024
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UK foreign secretary says halting arms sales to Israel would only strengthen Hamas

LONDON — Halting arms exports to Israel is “not a wise path” and would only strengthen Hamas, Britain’s foreign secretary said Sunday.

Asked whether the U.K. would follow the U.S. in threatening to cut the supply of offensive weapons to Israel if it carried out an attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the two countries cannot be compared because unlike the U.S., Britain supplies a very small amount of Israel’s weapons.

“The U.K. provides less than 1% of Israel’s weapons and it’s not a state supplier,” Cameron told the BBC on Sunday. “We have a licensing system and those licences can be closed if it’s judged there’s a serious risk of a serious international human rights violation.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that his government will stop supplying weapons and artillery to Israel if its forces launch an all-out assault on Rafah, the last major Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party and human rights groups have argued that the U.K. should follow a similar position and stop the sale of British-made weapons or components in a Rafah offensive.

The U.S. government said Friday that Israel’s use of U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law. But it added that wartime conditions prevented U.S. officials from determining that for certain in specific airstrikes.

Cameron said the U.K. did not support a major offensive in Rafah without a clear plan about how civilians can be protected.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade nonprofit group estimates that the real value of U.K. arms exports of Israel is at least 1 billion pounds since 2015, much higher than government figures.

It says that British industry, namely BAE Systems, provides about 15% of the components in the F-35 stealth combat aircraft used by Israel. The group alleges that the jets were used in recent bombardment of Gaza. The full value of component and other licenses is not known, it said.

Cameron also said that putting British boots on the ground in Gaza as part of international efforts to deliver aid would be “a risk that we shouldn’t take.”

His comments came after reports that U.K. authorities were considering deploying troops to land humanitarian supplies from a temporary pier being built by the U.S. military.

Cameron said that his government’s view was that “actually putting British boots on to the beach was not a good move.” He said that instead, the aid delivery will likely be carried out by a contractor.


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