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UK arms sales to Israel not halted amid 'limited' Gaza bombings

21 more Palestinians are confirmed dead in latest violence, but UK government says hostilities are 'limited' and will not suspend arms sales to Israel as yet
A boy in the rubble of the al-Louh family home in Gaza, where 8 members of the same family were killed on Wednesday (AA)

The UK government said on Wednesday that the current hostilities in the Gaza Strip are “limited” and that they have not decided to halt arms exports licences to Israel yet.

The statement comes on the back of last week’s promise by Business Secretary Vince Cable to halt 12 export licences in the case of a “resumption of significant hostilities.”

The 12 licences that were up for review were for components that had likely been used during the most recent bombardment of Gaza, according to the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which grants arms export licences.

Cable’s office on Wednesday told MEE that they are “closely monitoring the situation - our assessment so far is the hostilities have been limited.”

Since the breakdown of the ceasefire on Tuesday afternoon, 21 Palestinians have so far been killed, including at least four children and a pregnant woman.

“We have to wait for advice from all camps, including the embassy in Tel Aviv, before we can take a decision to suspend [arms sales].”

The spokesperson said that, at the time of the 12 August decision, there had been no decision as to what a “significant resumption of hostilities” could mean.

The spokesperson said the office will be assessing whether the renewed bombing in the Gaza Strip is “significant,” but that they have “no idea” how long such an assessment might take.

The UK-based Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which on Saturday warned that it might take legal steps against the government’s “unlawful” exports, called on the UK to take immediate action to stop arming Israel.

“The government has already said that if significant hostilities resumed, they would suspend those 12 licences. By any reasonable definition, that has happened. We’ve seen people die in bombings over the last 24 hours.”

“The very least Vince Cable can do is follow through on his word and make sure the licences are suspended immediately.”

“However, we also want an embargo on all future arms sales to Israel. In 2009, UK components were used in the bombing of Gaza - at the time the government said it would review all licences, but nothing changed and arms sales continued.”

“Stopping arming Israel would also send a strong political message that the UK government and the people at large do not support the bombardment of Gaza.”

Arms exports to Israel have been worth an estimated $83m to the British economy over the past five years.

In previous statements, the British government has said that an arms embargo could weaken their influence over Israel, especially as other EU member states have avoided a ban on weapons exports.

Spain announced on 5 August that it is suspending arms sales to Israel, which make up around 1 percent of Spain’s export trade.

That decision will come up for review in September.

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