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War on Gaza: Majority of UK voters want to ban arms sales to Israel, poll finds

Fifty-nine percent of voters believe government should stop exporting arms to Israel, including 71 percent of Labour voters
Activists from Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action fix a banner as they protest outside the Elbit Ferranti factory in waterhead, Oldham in north-west England on 1 February 2021.
Activists from Extinction Rebellion North and Palestine Action fix a banner as they protest outside the Elbit Ferranti factory in Oldham, in northwest England, on 1 February 2021 (Paul Ellis/AFP)

A new poll has found that a majority of voters in the UK support a ban on British arms sales to Israel, while a similar majority believe that Israel's actions in Gaza are violating human rights.

The survey is one of the few polls evaluating British public opinion of Israel's war in Gaza and provides an up-to-date reading that Israel is losing public support in the UK, a longtime ally.

The poll, commissioned by Action for Humanity and conducted by YouGov, found that 56 percent of UK voters are in favour of banning the export of arms to Israel, while only 17 percent are against such a ban.

Fifty-nine percent of voters also believe Israel is violating human rights in Gaza.

The poll was conducted before Israel killed seven aid workers in an air strike which has caused widespread condemnation from rights groups and UK and US lawmakers.

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Arms experts and campaigners told Middle East Eye that they are questioning whether the drone used by the Israeli military to kill the aid workers, including three former members of Britain's armed forces, was powered by a UK-made engine.

The survey also shows a significant division of views between Labour and Conservative voters. Among voters who plan to vote for the Labour Party, 71 percent back a ban on arms exports to Israel. For Conservative Party voters, that number is 38 percent – this is still larger than the number of Conservative voters who want to keep exporting arms to Israel, which was 36 percent.

The UK has licensed more than $727m worth of arms to Israel since 2008, according to an analysis by the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

On Wednesday, more than 600 prominent lawyers, academics and former judges signed a letter warning the UK government that its continued arming of Israel is breaching international law.

The open letter criticised the UK government for “falling significantly short” of its obligations under international law regarding arms sales to Israel.

Former Supreme Court judges: UK arms sales to Israel breach international law
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It goes on to warn of the UK’s liability for “failure to comply with its own obligations under the Genocide Convention”, potentially incurring “UK state responsibility for the commission of an international wrong”.

The signatories reference the International Court of Justice’s identification of a “plausible risk of genocide” and demand the UK suspend the provision of weapons and weapons systems to Israel and “work actively and effectively to secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza”.

The war in Gaza began on 7 October, when Hamas led a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking at least 240 hostages back to the besieged enclave. In response, Israel declared war, launching a full-scale military operation that began with a devastating and indiscriminate bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion of Gaza.

So far, Israeli forces have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, laid siege to and attacked hospitals and medical workers, and targeted other civilian infrastructure, including schools and mosques.

While the UK government has fully backed Israel's war efforts, demonstrations calling for an end to both the war and Israel's occupation of Palestine have erupted across the UK. London has seen multiple rallies of hundreds of thousands of people filling the streets to both support Palestine and call for an end to Israel's war.

The poll from YouGov and Action for Humanity used a sample size of 2,108 UK voters and picked individuals from a diverse range of political, geographic, and age categories.

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