David Cameron.
British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo by Reuters
Text size

The U.K. is reviewing all arms export licences to Israel in response to the conflict with Hamas in Gaza, a British government spokeswoman said on Monday. The move is similar to that taken by the British government after Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and which was first published in Haaretz.

Israel launched an offensive against Hamas almost four weeks ago following a surge in cross-border rocket salvoes. Gaza officials say 1,797 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, while Israel has lost 64 soldiers in combat and three civilians to Palestinian shelling.

"We are currently reviewing all export licenses to Israel to confirm that we think they are appropriate," a spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters. The decision to conduct the review was taken last week, she said.

According to a report by a British parliamentary committee last month, outstanding government-approved contracts for export of dual use or military goods to Israel are worth more than 7.8 billion pounds ($13.12 billion). These include contracts to supply body armor, drone components, and missile parts.

"Clearly the current situation has changed compared to when some licenses will have been granted, and we're reviewing those existing licenses against the current situation but no decisions have been taken beyond going back again and reviewing," the spokeswoman said. Britain's opposition Labour party has accused Cameron of not condemning Israel's behavior forcefully enough, a charge he rejects.

In July 2009, eight months after the conclusion of Cast Lead, the British government informed Israel that it was canceling five security export licenses and would not supply replacement parts and other equipment for Sa'ar 4.5 gunships because they participated in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The embargo followed a government review of all British defense exports to Israel, which was announced three months ago. In total, the telegram said, Britain reviewed 182 licenses for arms exports to Israel, including 35 for exports to the Israel Navy. But it ultimately decided to cancel only five licenses, all relating to the Sa'ar 4.5 ships. The licenses in question apparently cover spare parts for the ship's guns.