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22 Feb, 2024 09:49

UK could restrict arms sales to Israel – Bloomberg

The measure would be introduced if the IDF continues to escalate its operation in Gaza, sources told the agency
UK could restrict arms sales to Israel – Bloomberg

Britain is considering restricting some arms exports to Israel if the country launches an offensive on the city of Rafah in Gaza or keeps hampering aid trucks from entering the Palestinian enclave, Bloomberg has reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The worry in London is that the expansion of attacks on Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) without additional efforts to protect civilians may see Israel breaching international law, the agency said in an article on Wednesday.

According to the latest data from Gaza’s health ministry, 29,313 people have been killed and 69,333 others wounded as a result of the Israeli airstrikes and ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave. Israel has been attacking Gaza since October 7, when Hamas carried out an incursion into the country, killing some 1,200 people and capturing 253. The group is still holding 134 hostages.

In the event of further escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, legal advice given by the British government law officers to UK ministers in charge of issuing export licenses could change, potentially affecting the sale of some weapons and technologies to the Jewish state, the sources said.

The UK doesn’t supply a lot of arms to Israel, with sales amounting to £42 million ($53 million) in 2022, but the potential restrictions are a sign of increased Western pressure on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act more cautiously with the military operation against Hamas, Bloomberg said. The amount of military aid provided to Israel in 2022 by its main backer, the US, stood at $3.18 billion.

In his letter to British MPs on Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron expressed “deep concern about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah,” the city near Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, which has become the last refuge for more than a million Palestinians displaced by IDF attacks. “We do not underestimate the devastating humanitarian impacts that a full ground offensive, if enacted, would have,” Cameron said.

Netanyahu claimed last week that “those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are essentially telling us: ‘Lose the war.’” He vowed that he “won’t let that happen.”

According to Bloomberg, the UK and its allies also want some 500 trucks with essential supplies to enter Gaza on a daily basis. However, Israel is currently letting through a “significantly smaller” number of aid vehicles, which increases the risk of famine in the Palestinian enclave, the sources said.