Ministers urge UK govt to ban arms sales to Israel

Pressure is mounting within the UK Parliament for the government to cease arms sales to Israel, especially in light of indications that Israel intends to disregard the recent UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. Over 130 parliamentarians, including MPs and peers, have signed a letter addressed to Foreign Secretary David Cameron, urging action similar to that taken by other nations like Canada, which recently announced a halt in arms exports to Israel.

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy has called for the publication of legal advice regarding whether Israel’s actions pose a serious risk of breaching international humanitarian law, which would typically prompt a suspension of UK arms sales. The coordinated letter, spearheaded by Labour MP Zarah Sultana, emphasizes the unacceptable nature of business-as-usual regarding UK arms exports to Israel, citing instances where UK-made arms were implicated in conflicts in Gaza.

The letter underscores that the level of violence perpetrated by the Israeli military exceeds previous escalations, yet the UK government has failed to act decisively. Despite the recent UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the resolution signals ongoing conflict. The US, while regarding the resolution as non-binding, is not aligned with the UK’s interpretation.

Although Cameron has intensified criticism of Israel, ministers argue that decisions on arms sales involve complex legal considerations, including Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Various human rights and aid organizations, including Oxfam and Amnesty International, have also called for the suspension of arms licenses to Israel.

MP Zarah Sultana stresses the urgency of ending arms sales to Israel, particularly in light of Israel’s disregard for the recent UN resolution. Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s advocacy manager, Katie Fallon, criticizes the government’s response, alleging avoidance tactics in addressing concerns over arms sales to Israel.

In a separate development, a judicial review is being sought regarding the UK’s decision to suspend funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. This challenge, initiated by the Bindmans law firm on behalf of a British-Palestinian individual, alleges that the suspension decision lacked logical justification and failed to consider international obligations or decision-making frameworks within the Foreign Office. The UK government is awaiting independent reports before deciding on the resumption of funding, whereas other countries like Australia and Canada have already resumed their support.

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