UK military contractors selling Israel record amounts of arms: Report


A new report has revealed that British military contractors are selling record amounts of weapons and ammunition to the Israeli regime, in the wake of an announcement by the Kensington Palace that Prince William would represent the UK government on a visit to the occupied territories next month.

The British daily newspaper, The Guardian, citing figures from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a UK-based NGO, said in a report published on its website on Sunday that the UK issued £221 million worth of arms license to military companies exporting to the Israeli regime last year.

It added that such an export of different kinds of weapons and ammunition to Israel made it the UK’s eighth largest market for British arms companies.

The report further said the huge figure was also a skyrocketing increase compared with the previous year’s figure of £86 million, which in turn had been a dramatic rise on the £20 million worth of arms licensed in 2015. It added that in total, over the past five years, the occupying regime had purchased more than £350 million worth of UK military hardware.

Last year, the UK military contractors’ arms exports to Israel included those for targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles, the report went on to say, adding that in 2016, London also issued licenses for anti-armor ammunition, gun mountings, components for air-to-air missiles, targeting equipment, components for assault rifles, components for grenade-launchers and anti-riot shields.

The UK government’s green light to exporting arms to Israel has in the past years drawn condemnations from rights groups. The report of last year’s export figures has also come amid a deadly crackdown of unarmed Palestinian protesters by Israeli troops at the border of the besieged Gaza Strip with the Israeli-held territories.

The occupied territories have been the scene of new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017, declared Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and promised that the US would move its diplomatic mission to the city.

The highly provocative move caused outrage among Palestinians, who want the occupied West Bank as part of their future independent state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. Israel, on the other hand, lays claim to the whole city as its “capital.”

In the hours leading up to the inauguration of the embassy in al-Quds on May 14, Israeli troops engaged in clashes with Palestinian protesters, killing over 60 unarmed demonstrators and wounding more than 2,700 others, either through direct shooting or firing tear gas canisters. The death toll is so far the highest in a single day since a series of Palestinian protests demanding the right to return to ancestral homes began on March 30.

The embassy inauguration also coincided with the climax of a six-week demonstration on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), when Israel was created and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly evicted from their homeland by Israelis in 1948.

On Thursday, the Kensington Palace announced that 35-year-old Prince William would commence his Middle East trip on June 24 in Amman, the capital of Jordan, and then he would have stops in Tel Aviv and Ramallah before concluding in Jerusalem al-Quds on June 28.

His trip to the occupied territories, which will be made against the backdrop of a massacre, marks the first time a member of the British royal family has traveled to Israel on official business.

The Kensington Palace said in a statement that Prince William’s high-profile visit had been “at the request of Her Majesty’s government.”

“After the appallingly excessive response of the Israeli security forces at the Gaza border, tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories are likely to be close to boiling point when Prince William makes this historic visit,” said Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty International UK’s campaigns director.

Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, carries his message to hang on a “tree of hope”” as he leaves after attending The Manchester Arena National Service of Commemoration at Manchester Cathedral in central Manchester, May 22, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Andrew Smith of CAAT also said that “the shootings we have seen over recent weeks have been an awful reminder of the appalling collective punishment and oppression that has been inflicted on the people of Gaza. By the government’s own admission, UK arms have been used time and again against Palestinians. Yet the arms sales have continued unabated.”

Back in March, another report revealed that the United Kingdom is using secretive licenses to hide the scale of its arms exports to countries with dire human rights records in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer of UK arms under the opaque open licensing system.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007, causing a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty there.

In addition, the Israeli regime has imposed increasing power cuts and shortages in fuel in the sliver, hugely disrupting water and sanitation services. Medicines and health equipment are also in dire short supply, straining an already fragile health system.

Israel has also launched several wars on the Palestinian sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014 and ended in late August the same year. The Israeli military aggression killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and injured over 11,100 others.

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