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UK Ban on Selling Arms to Israel Would Strengthen Hamas, says Cameron

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Lord Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, stated that a UK ban on selling arms to Israel would strengthen Hamas. Lord Cameron added that the UK will not follow the US plan to stop some arms sales because the UK supplies just 1% of Israel’s weapons. However, he warned that Israel must do more to protect civilians and allow humanitarian aid through. Lord Cameron also said that he would not support a major ground offensive in the Gazan city of Rafah until he saw Israel’s plan to protect people. 

He argued that the US, which is “a massive state supplier of weaponry,” is in “a totally different position” to the UK. The UK government does not directly sell arms to Israel but grants licenses to weapons companies based on legal advice. In contrast, the US uses less restrictive government-to-government deals to sell arms. Lord Cameron pointed out that the last time he was urged to end weapons sales to Israel, when three Britons were killed in an air strike on aid workers in Gaza, “a few days later there was a brutal attack by Iran on Israel.”

Lord Cameron said he wanted to focus on “hammering away every day” to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. He dismissed the idea of British boots on the ground in Gaza, saying it was “a risk that we should not take.” 

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said he did not “want to see British-made weapons used” in an invasion in Rafah. He called on the government to publish the legal advice it has been given on arms sales to Israel. Labour MP Zarah Sultana accused the government of not following its own rules by supplying weapons to Israel. 

The government’s Strategic Export Licensing Criteria prevents weapons sales “if there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law.” Ms Sultana said the scale of arms sales to Israel “does not matter.” “We are aiding and abetting what are war crimes happening on a daily basis,” she said.

The US State Department released an investigation last week which found that Israel may have used American-supplied weapons in breach of international humanitarian law during the war in Gaza. Lord Cameron said Israel’s “performance is not good enough,” arguing “Israel has not had a clean bill of health” on allowing humanitarian aid into the country. But the UK “has a different approach,” Lord Cameron said, and he was “not really interested in message sending” through political moves like ending weapons sales.

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