Britain approved £4m arms sales to Israel after Gaza 50-day war

The British government continued to approve arms sales totalling £4m (€5.6m), to Israel in the months following the Israeli military's controversial operation in Gaza last summer, a new report has revealed.

New research collated by the advocacy groups Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), War on Want and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, shows that the arms licenses approved by the UK government included direct arms sales as well as a range of military hardware, such as components for combat helicopters and military navigation equipment.

In the 50-day conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians - at least 1,585 civilians of which 530 were children - were killed in the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) Operation Protective Edge, according to UN and Palestinian accounts. 72 Israelis - all but five of whom were soldiers - were killed in clashes with Palestinian militants or by rocket fire, according to Israeli accounts.

From the end of the conflict in August 2014 to December, Britain's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sanctioned 32 military exports to Israel with a total cost of £3.97m, with the first license being granted on 1 September.

The research says that this material is "likely to be used if violence resumes" between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. 36 arms licenses were also approved by Britain to third party countries for weapons which were then sold to Israel, including licenses for parts of surface-to-surface missiles, combat helicopters and military communications equipment. The countries included Germany, Italy and the United States.

"More than 2,000 people died in Israel's bombardment of Gaza, and yet in the months immediately following the conflict it was business as usual for the UK government and the arms companies they support," said CAAT researcher Andrew Smith in reaction to the research.

"The continuation of arms sales represents a form of political as well as material support from the UK to Israel despite the construction of the 'apartheid wall' in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements there and the ongoing blockade of Gaza," he added.

Last August during the Gaza conflict, former business secretary Vince Cable launched a review into 12 arms licenses granted to Israel and threatened to suspend them if a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed. No licenses were ever suspended or revoked.

In 2009, then-foreign secretary David Miliband conceded that British-supplied military hardware had "almost certainly" been used to conduct attacks on Palestinians in the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict between Israel and militant groups.

A spokesperson from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that a government review of arms export licenses to Israel is "due to complete shortly" and the ministry "will announce the outcome in due course".

Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning Israel over its conduct in the Gaza conflict as outlined in a UN report on Operation Protective Edge. 41 countries voted in favour of the resolution, including Britain, while five abstained - Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Macedonia and Paraguay. The United States were the only country who voted against it.

The resolution called on both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes and cooperate with the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation into the alleged crimes.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Eviatar Manor, condemned the resolution as "an anti-Israeli manifesto", arguing that "Hamas continues to fire rockets and terror acts go on as I speak".