Shameful to call for UK to end arms sales to Israel

Former prime minister Boris Johnson has said it is “shameful” to call for the UK to end arms sales to Israel.

Three Britons were among seven aid workers killed in air strikes in Gaza carried out by Israel’s army on Monday.

It has led the Lib Dems, SNP and some Labour and Conservative MPs to urge the UK to reassess how it supports Israel.

The Foreign Office said it keeps advice on Israel’s adherence to the law under review, adding that this is confidential.

Writing in his Daily Mail column, Mr Johnson said it would be “insane” for the UK to end military support, which he said would be “willing the military defeat of Israel and the victory of Hamas”.

Mr Johnson, a former foreign secretary, wrote: “Remember that in order to win this conflict, Hamas only has to survive. All they need at the end is to hang on, rebuild, and go again.

“That’s victory for Hamas; and that is what these legal experts seem to be asking for.”

More than 600 lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices, this week wrote to the government saying weapon exports to Israel must end because the UK risks breaking international law over a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza. Israel rejects the claim of genocide as “wholly unfounded”.

Three Britons were among the World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers who died in the strikes: John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47.

A composite image of the aid workers who were killed

WCK released pictures of the victims [World Central Kitchen]

WCK founder Jose Andres claimed the Israeli military knew of his aid workers’ movements and targeted them “systematically, car by car”.

Israeli officials reacted by sacking two senior military officers over the strikes, which it has described as a “grave mistake stemming from a serious failure”.

Mr Johnson said it was “shattering” to see the deaths, but Israel was sending warnings of their attacks and “trying to use precision munitions”.

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron previously said the UK would carefully review findings of the initial Israel Defense Forces (IDF) report into the incident, which was released on Friday.

Mr Johnson accused Lord Cameron of being silent on the issue, saying the foreign secretary had “gone into a kind of purdah” on arms sales.

Much of the Gaza Strip has been devastated during the IDF military operations which began after Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages.

More than 33,091 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

Reacting to Mr Johnson’s comments, a UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “We keep advice on Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law under review and ministers act in accordance with that advice, for example when considering export licences.

“The content of the government’s advice is confidential.

“Decisions on export licences are based on the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria. We would make public any decision to suspend or revoke existing licences.”

British arms sales to Israel are lower than those of other countries, including Germany and Italy, and dwarfed by the billions supplied by its largest arms supplier, the US.

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