UK ‘Complicit’ in Israel's Killing of British Aid Workers in Gaza, Says CAAT

UK ‘Complicit’ in Israel's Killing of British Aid Workers in Gaza, Says CAAT

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The UK government and arms industry are both complicit in Israel’s killing of seven aid workers in Gaza, including three British citizens, said the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The workers were killed by a strike from a Hermes 450 drone manufactured by Israeli-owned company Elbit Systems. The drone is powered by a UK-made R902(W) Wankel engine, produced by Elbit subsidiary UAV Engines Limited in the UK.

“This government is complicit in the murder of UK aid workers in Gaza,” said CAAT spokesperson Emily Apple. “It has had every opportunity to impose an arms embargo and has refused to do so.” Apple added that while CAAT’s thoughts are with the families and friends of the aid workers killed, they are also with the families and friends of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been killed by Israel.

CAAT’s allegation follows revelations that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London is hiding legal advice that Israel is breaching International Humanitarian Law (IHL), according to Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns MP. The news of the suppressed legal advice was revealed in the Observer from a recorded speech Kearns made at a fundraiser.

“Not only is our government complicit in genocide, but it also knows that it is,” explained Apple. “Time and again Foreign Secretary David Cameron and FCDO ministers have refused to answer direct questions on the legal advice they’ve received. They have misled parliament and made a mockery of both our democracy and international law.”

On 19 February, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and Palestinian Al-Haq legal rights NGO were refused permission to take the government to court over its arms sales. The “outrageous” refusal was based on the grounds that the government is carrying out a rolling review process. They have now been granted an oral hearing to argue again for the case to be allowed to proceed.

Since 2015, the UK has licensed £487 million ($617 million) worth of weapons to Israel. However, this does not include equipment exported via open licences. In particular, 15 per cent of the value of every US-made F-35 combat aircraft, which Israel uses to bomb Gaza, is made in the UK, exports for which are covered by an open licence with no limit on the quantity or value of exports. CAAT estimates conservatively that the work on the 36 F-35s exported to Israel up to 2023 has been worth at least £368 million ($466 million) to the UK arms industry.

Campaign Against Arms Trade and Palestine Solidarity Cornwall held an emergency vigil-cum-protest in Falmouth, Cornwall on Wednesday evening. One of the people killed in the attack, James Henderson, was from Falmouth.

“We are devastated to hear that James Henderson — known as Jimmy to his friends — was one of the aid workers killed by a targeted strike from Israel, and our deepest thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends,” said a spokesperson for Palestine Solidarity Cornwall, who confirmed that the campaign group did not speak on their behalf. “We gathered to pay our respects and show our solidarity to James, and to all of the needlessly martyred people of Palestine, as we have been doing week in and out since this genocide escalated in October.”

Palestine Solidarity Cornwall pointed out how “scandalous” it is that almost 200 aid workers have been killed by Israel over the past six months, and that the inevitable deterrent this will pose for the already extremely restricted yet essential aid sector will have a devastating effect on humanitarian aid reaching starving Palestinians in Gaza.

“James is one of over 37,000+ people to be murdered since the start of October, each one an individual with a life, a story and a family, and our politicians can no longer look away. James’s killing, like the 37,000 Palestinians killed — including 14,000 children — could have been prevented by our government, and others around the world, ceasing arms deals with Israel and refusing to support a genocide. They are guilty. This blood is on their hands.”

According to CAAT, it is clear that the UK government has nothing but “contempt” for Palestinian people. “Despite Israel deliberately causing a famine, in which over a million people face starvation, and despite killing tens of thousands of people, this government has chosen to prioritise the profits of arms dealers over Palestinian lives,” spokesperson Apple pointed out.

“Every day people are taking action against arms companies profiting from the genocide Israel is committing. This has to continue. Every single company that supplies weapons or military must be held to account. Our government has failed us, and it has failed the Palestinian people, and it has failed its own citizens. It is down to us to take action.”

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