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War on Gaza: Scotland's Humza Yousaf calls on UK government to end arms sales to Israel

Israel's western allies are facing increasing pressure to stop export licences as situation deteriorates in Gaza ahead of planned Israeli ground offensive on Rafah
Humza Yousaf's call comes just a day after a group of UN experts also said that the transfer of weapons to Israel that would be used in Gaza would likely to violate international law (MEE/Hossam Sarhan)
By Mohamed Hashem in Edinburgh

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf has urged the UK government to suspend arms sales to Israel, amid growing concerns that the transfer of weapons and ammunition could violate international humanitarian law.

In an upcoming exclusive interview with Middle East Eye, Yousaf said the scenes unfolding across the besieged Gaza Strip, where the entire population of 2.3 million people was at imminent risk of famine, underscored the need to suspend export licences to Israel.

"The UK government needs to stop arming Israel," Yousaf, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), told MEE's Real Talk series

"They now need to stop arming Israel. I cannot be clearer about that.

"Given some of the atrocious scenes that we have seen that are undoubtedly breaches of humanitarian law - whether it's innocent civilians waving white flags being shot dead, whether it's the bombing of refugee camps, whether it's the bombing of schools, whether it's the fact that we know tens of thousands of innocent women and children have been killed - what possible justification can there be to provide arms to an army and to a government that has been responsible for such flagrant breaches of humanitarian law?" he lamented.

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The UK has licensed at least £472m ($598m) worth of military exports to Israel since May 2015, according to analysis of government export data by Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat), a UK-based pressure group that seeks an end to the global arms trade.

According to Caat, UK companies have provided about 15 percent of the components needed for the F35 stealth combat aircraft which Israel has used to bomb Gaza.

Under the government's own arms exporting criteria, the UK is obligated to suspend licences for arms exports if it determines that there is a clear risk that British weapons might be used in such violations.

"My party will consider what more we can do to try to exert pressure on the UK government," Yousaf said. "I cannot see the justification for arming the Israeli government given some of the devastation that we've already seen."

Yousaf's call comes just a day after a group of UN experts also said that "any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international law".

"All states must 'ensure respect' for international humanitarian law by parties to an armed conflict, as required by 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary international law," the experts said.

"States must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition – or parts for them – if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law."

Pressure has been growing on Israel's western allies to suspend arms exports to the country over the rising number of civilian casualties in Gaza.

At least 29,600 Palestinians, including more than 13,000 children, have been killed and 69,000 injured since Israel declared war on the impoverished territory after the 7 October attacks. 

UN experts call on countries to immediately halt arms exports to Israel
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Earlier this month, both Spain and Belgium announced that they were pausing weapons sales to Israel amid concerns over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza.

Since mid-October, the SNP, which holds 63 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament and 43 out of the 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons, has repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The opposition Labour Party called for "an immediate humanitarian ceasefire" for the first time on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's chaotic Gaza ceasefire vote.

The government and the SNP condemned Speaker Lindsay Hoyle over his decision to ignore precedent and allow a vote that helped the Labour Party – which is tipped to win a national election later this year – avoid a large-scale rebellion among its own lawmakers over its position on Israel's war on Gaza.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, who initially gave full backing to Israel as it embarked on its war, is under increasing pressure from Labour lawmakers and party members to help end the bloodshed.

Recent surveys have shown that public appetite for the war is shifting, with 66 percent of Brits now backing calls for a ceasefire.

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