Quakers and others say government’s public position on weapons licences to Israel at odds with what it has admitted in litigation

The government must suspend arms transfers to Israel instead of stating that it has provided no lethal or military equipment, Quakers and others warned this week.

Fighter jet against blue sky
An Israeli Air Force F-35I fighter jet flies over Tel Aviv in May 2022, photo credit: Davidi Vardi on Shutterstock

At least 29,092 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing conflict in Gaza, while thousands remain missing under rubble.

Now eight organisations working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have expressed deep concerns that the UK government still refuses to suspend arms transfers to Israel, despite clear risks that the equipment might be used in war crimes.

The government claims it has provided no lethal or military equipment to Israel since the Hamas attacks of 7 October 2023.

Yet in its response to the legal action brought by Al-Haq on 12 January it admitted that there were 28 extant licences and 28 pending applications for equipment most likely to be used by the Israeli forces in offensive operations.

The International Court of Justice ruled in January that there is a plausible risk that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

UK government at risk of being complicit in genocide

This places the UK government at risk of failing to prevent and being complicit in genocide, in violation of its obligations under international law, including the Geneva Convention.

On February 11, the Dutch Court of Appeal ordered the Netherlands to halt export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel, given the clear risk they might be used in serious violations of humanitarian law in Gaza.

This makes the position of the UK government even more untenable, signatories including War on Want and Human Rights Watch warned.

The joint statement said: “As our detailed joint letter to the Foreign Secretary of 8 December 2023 specified, the UK produces 15 percent of the parts of all F-35s [combat aircraft] being used in Gaza."

“In the two months since we wrote to the Foreign Secretary, more than 12,000 people have been killed in Gaza," they wrote.

“The UK government must urgently and immediately act and suspend licences of military equipment to Israel."

Pressure is mounting on the UK to stop supplying arms to Israel, with the Daily Express reporting last weekend that the UK had suspended Israeli F-35 help on UK soil, including an RAF base in Cyprus.

Read full letter here