UK FM Cameron 'threatened to pull Israeli arms over Palestinian prisoner access'

UK FM Cameron 'threatened to pull Israeli arms over Palestinian prisoner access'
UK Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly threatened to pull weapons supplies to Israel, unless it provided access to Palestinian detainees.
3 min read
22 March, 2024
David Cameron has been increasingly critical of Israel's conduct in the Gaza war [Getty]

UK Foreign Minister David Cameron reportedly threatened to cut arms supplies to Israel unless it allowed access to Palestinian detainees, according to Israeli media.

Cameron reportedly demanded that the Red Cross or diplomats be granted access to "detained terrorists of Hamas elite Nukhba force" if Israel wanted to continue buying UK weapons, Ynet reported.

He also warned that the UK and other European countries might enact an arms embargo on Israel "if the current situation persists".

No sources were named and further information about the alleged Hamas detainees was not mentioned.

The New Arab approached the Foreign, Commonwealth, & Development Office (FCDO) for confirmation about the report.

"We keep advice on Israel’s adherence to International Humanitarian Law under review and will act in accordance with that advice," an FCDO spokesperson told The New Arab.

"All export license applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria."

Israel has denied access to its detention facilities for international observers, including the Red Cross, where allegations of torture, maltreatment, denial of medical treatment, and even extrajudicial killings are widespread.

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Israel has rounded up countless innocent civilians in Gaza accused of being Hamas militants, including doctors and journalists, and detained them without charge, denying them access to lawyers or monitors.

Mohammed Arab, a Gaza correspondent with The New Arab's sister station, Al-Araby TV, was disappeared by Israel this week, while Al-Araby Al-Jadeed journalist Diaa Al-Kahlout told of his humiliating treatment during his spell in Israeli detention before his release earlier this year.

Israel and the UK have been embroiled in a diplomatic spat, which led to the suspension of Israeli government spokesperson Elon Levy. 

Key to this was an undiplomatic challenge by Levy on X to Cameron's request for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza, where famine is looming amid cases of starvation.

Cameron on Friday responded to Levy's claims that the UK could send 100 more aid trucks into Gaza each day and that the UN ordered the closure of a vital crossing into the enclave, not Israel.

"In response to the Israeli spokesman claims that you quote in your letter, I can confirm that the UN has not requested that the Kerem Shalom crossing is closed on Saturdays," Cameron wrote to MP Alicia Kearns.

"It is our understanding that Israel closes it due to the Sabbath." 

Israel and the UK have been firm allies for decades, with the British government firmly supporting Israel's war on Gaza since October.

The harrowing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and threats by Israel to invade the densely-packed border city of Rafah has forced UK MPs to rethink their position amid growing international outrage.

This week, Canada withdrew weapons supplies to Israel, while other Western countries, including the UK, are reportedly reconsidering their arms exports to Israel in case the Rafah assault begins, driven by concerns of violating international law

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) said the UK needs to show action not words if it wants to help the people of Gaza.

ICJP Senior Public Affairs Officer Jonathan Purcell said: "The biggest difference the UK can make is not half-baked conditional threats but to immediately end arms exports to Israel. Its all very well using it as a bargaining chip but when the government themselves are complicit, its hard to see this as taking the moral high ground."