UK reviewing arms export licenses to Israel

UK reviewing arms export licenses to Israel

Government spokeswoman says situation in Gaza Strip brought about reconsideration of weapons deals

Israeli soldiers seen on tanks at an IDF staging area near the Israeli border with Gaza, on July 31, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers seen on tanks at an IDF staging area near the Israeli border with Gaza, on July 31, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The British government has begun conducting a review of all weapons export licenses to Israel in order to assure that the arms are being put to “appropriate” use, a spokeswoman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.

The decision to review the licenses was made last week, the spokeswoman added, amid concerns over Israel’s ongoing operation in the Gaza Strip.

According to health officials in Gaza, nearly 1,800 Palestinians have been killed throughout the operation, which was launched by Israel in order to uncover and demolish a network of underground tunnels leading from the Hamas-controlled enclave into Israeli territory, and in order to stem rocket fire at Israeli territory from the Strip. Sixty-four IDF soldiers have been killed in combat with Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters as well, and three civilians have died as a result of rocket or mortar fire by terror operatives in Gaza. Israel says hundreds of the Gaza dead are Hamas gunmen.

“Clearly, the current situation has changed compared to when some licenses will have been granted, and we’re reviewing those existing licenses against the current situation, but no decisions have been taken beyond going back again and reviewing,” the spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.

A British parliamentary committee found that the UK government has approved $13.12 billion worth of contracts for export of dual use or military goods to Israel, Reuters reported.

The US Defense Department came under criticism last week after approving arms sales to Israel to restock ammunition supplies.

Earlier this week, a top Pentagon spokesman stressed that the Obama administration would not leverage arms transfers to Israel to bring about a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The arms and ammunition provided to Israel is “through a long-standing foreign military sales program,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Saturday. “Israel is a staunch ally in that part of the world. And that program has existed for many years, and we’re supplying that material through that program.”

Kirby added that the United States has made it clear that it would like to see a ceasefire and an end to violence in Gaza.

JTA contributed to this report

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