xi's moments
Home | Europe

Arms sales to Israel questioned

Survey shows UK voters believe the conflict in Gaza could break laws on human rights

By Julian Shea in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-05 02:44

This file photo taken on April 2 shows a view of the vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. [Photo/Agencies]

An opinion poll carried out in the United Kingdom before the recent airstrike in Gaza that killed seven aid workers, three of them British, shows the majority of voters in Britain back a ban on arms sales to Israel.

The poll, commissioned by the international non-governmental organization Action for Humanity, is one of the first surveys of British public feeling over the conflict, which erupted in the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct 7 that left around 1,200 people dead.

The survey showed that 56 percent of those asked supported banning the sales of arms and spare parts to Israel, and, in addition, 59 percent of respondents thought Israel was violating human rights in the conflict.

The BBC quoted figures from the pressure group Campaign Against Arms Trade, that said the UK had made arms sales to Israel worth more than 574 million pounds ($727 million) since 2008, and, according to Business Minister Greg Hands, in 2022, those sales were worth 42 million pounds.

The UK government backs Israel's right to defend itself, and as recently as February, a statement issued by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office said that, in a call with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he had "reaffirmed the UK's continued support for Israel's right to defend its people against Hamas' terror and ensure its long-term security".

Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, called the incident that killed seven workers for aid agency World Central Kitchen "a mistake that followed a misidentification — at night during a war in very complex conditions" and said "it shouldn't have happened", but the Israeli government is yet to offer a detailed explanation of what happened.

The UK opposition Labour Party has said arms sales must stop if government lawyers believe Israeli actions in Gaza risk breaking international law, and former national security advisor Peter Ricketts has called for a halt, saying there is "abundant evidence now that Israel hasn't been taking enough care to fulfil its obligations on the safety of civilians".

The Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party have also demanded that sales be suspended, but Sunak has responded by saying the UK is "very careful" about its arms sales.

In an interview with the BBC that mainly focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the UK's Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he would not answer any questions about the situation in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Suella Braverman, who was sacked as home secretary by both Sunak and his predecessor in Downing Street, Liz Truss, and who now has no government role, has provoked anger because of her behavior since the killing of the aid workers.

Despite her lack of office, she wrote on social media platform X that she had met senior Israeli military and political figures, and referred to the killings as "a terrible mistake for which Israel has rightly apologized," later telling the BBC it was "an insult" to suggest Israel was not trying to limit civilian casualties.

After the airstrike on the aid convoy, a planned delivery by sea of 240 metric tons of food returned to its port in Cyprus on Wednesday, having failed to unload supplies.

Officials from the World Health Organization were also waiting for the Israeli authorities to allow them access to Al Shifa hospital in northern Gaza.

The team also hoped to visit two other hospitals in northern Gaza, Sahaba and Ahli hospitals, but no permission has yet been given to go there.

Agencies contributed to this story.


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349