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UK must suspend arms sale to Israel if clear risk of serious breach of international law in Gaza, says Labour

UK must suspend arms sale to Israel if clear risk of serious breach of international law in Gaza, says Labour

Britain should suspend arm sales to Israel if lawyers find clear risk of serious breaches of international law in the Gaza war, says Labour.

After the killing of three UK aid workers in an Israeli strike on Gaza, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy urged the Government to finally publish its advice regarding UK arms exports to Israel.

He said: “It’s totally wrong that the Foreign Secretary (Lord Cameron) has gone silent on the question of whether or not Israel is complying with international humanitarian law, after saying he’d get new advice nearly a month ago.

“There are very serious accusations that Israel has breached international law, which must be taken into account.”

He added: “The law is clear. British arms licences cannot be granted if there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”

Earlier, former UK national security adviser Lord Ricketts said Britain should stop selling arms to Israel, after seven charity workers were killed in an air strike.

The peer, who was also previously head of the Foreign Office, said there was now “abundant evidence” that Israel has not been “fulfilling its obligations on the safety of civilians”.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if the UK should now stop selling arms to Israel, Lord Ricketts said: “In my view yes we have reached that point.

“I remember David Cameron telling the BBC on March 8 that a judgement was going to be made on whether Israel was compliant with international law ‘in the coming days’.

“I think there is abundant evidence now that Israel has not been taking enough care to fulfil its obligations on the safety of civilians.

“And a country that gets arms from the UK has to comply with international humanitarian law, that is a condition of the arms export licence.

“Honesty, I think the time has come to send that signal.”

He stressed it would be a “powerful, political message” and might stimulate debate in the US, which would be the “real game changer”, if Washington started to think of putting limits or restrictions on the use of American weapons by Israel.

His comments came as three British aid workers killed by the Israeli air strike in Gaza were being hailed as “heroes” amid mounting international condemnation of the attack.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) confirmed British victims John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, who were working for the charity’s security team, were among seven of its staff killed.

The team’s leader, Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, an Australian national, also died, along with American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.

According to The Times, Mr Chapman was a former Royal Marine from Cornwall who was due to leave Gaza on Monday, while The Sun said he had served in the Special Boat Service, the special forces unit of the Royal Navy.

Mr Henderson was also a former Royal Marine, according to The Daily Telegraph, while Mr Kirby is also believed to be a military veteran.

WCK’s chief executive Erin Gore described the victims as “the heroes of World Central Kitchen”.

Nearly 200 aid workers are reported to have died in Gaza since the war began in October.

As Israel faced condemnation from America, Britain, Australia and a host of other countries, Lord Ricketts added: “It’s really a question now of how Israel respond to this.

Lord Ricketts (Getty Images)
Lord Ricketts (Getty Images)

“Sometimes in conflict you get a moment where there is such global outrage that it crystalises a sense that things can’t on like this.

“I hope that this awful incident will serve that purpose.”

The peer, who was Britain’s ambassador to France and UK Permanent Representative to NATO, explained further: “The issue is that throughout the conflict, Israel has not been giving priority to using that huge military power that it has in a way that protects civilians, especially the humanitarian and the medical workers which are so essential.

“They have an obligation to do that under international law and I hope that the mobilisation of global outage over this incident will bring them to see that they have to do a much better job of coordinating the agencies, of showing that it is safe to deliver aid in Gaza.”

During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak said he was appalled by the killings and demanded a thorough, transparent and independent investigation.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister spoke to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening.

“He said he was appalled by the killing of aid workers, including three British nationals, in an air strike in Gaza yesterday and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened.”

Mr Netanyahu confirmed Israeli forces were behind the “unintended strike” on Tuesday.

Israel’s military chief said the deadly Israeli attack, reportedly on three vehicles, was the result of a “misidentification” in complex conditions.

Announcing the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi expressed remorse over the killings and called the event a “grave mistake.”

He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days, and said the army appreciates the “important work” of the World Central Kitchen.

Senior Labour shadow minister Darren Jones said the UK and US are saying Israel has “gone too far” in its military campaign which aims to destroy terror group Hamas which carried out the October 7 atrocity in which about 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel.

Israel’s invasion of Gaza has left more than 30,000 dead, according to local health officials.