Huge increase in UK arms sales to Israel

Israeli soldiers

Figures from Campaign Against Arms Trade reveal that last year the UK issued £221m worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel – a huge increase on the previous year’s figure of £86m.

In total, over the past five years, Israel has bought more than £350m worth of UK military hardware.

Licences issued to UK defence contractors exporting to Israel last year include those for targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles. In 2016 the UK issued licences for anti-armour ammunition, gun mountings, components for air-to-air missiles, targeting equipment, components for assault rifles, components for grenade-launchers and anti-riot shields.

The news comes shortly after Israel massacred over 60 Palestinian protestors in Gaza on May 14, none of whom were posing a lethal threat.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, defended Israel’s response, saying “every country has an obligation to defend its borders”.

Theresa May said the use of live rounds by Israeli forces was “deeply troubling” and called for greater restraint. Now the UK government faces questions as to whether UK-made weapons were used by the Israelis last month.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The shootings we have seen over recent weeks have been an awful reminder of the appalling collective punishment and oppression that has been inflicted on the people of Gaza. By the government’s own admission, UK arms have been used time and again against Palestinians. Yet the arms sales have continued unabated. There must be a full investigation into if any UK arms have been used in the atrocities we have seen over recent months.”

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