UK-Israel ties shaken over Scotland Yard police probe into Gaza war crimes

UK-Israel ties shaken over Scotland Yard police probe into Gaza war crimes
Police in London have said they were obliged under international war to investigate possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza, angering Israeli and some UK officials.
3 min read
12 January, 2024
London police have asked people to come forward with any evidence they have of violations [Getty]

A Scotland Yard probe into possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza has angered Tel Aviv and threatens to destabilise the UK’s ties with Israel.

London’s Metropolitan Police is asking everyone who has evidence of Israeli crimes in the Gaza Strip to come forward as part of the investigation.

The agency recently put up posters in English and Arabic at several British airports, including Heathrow, reading: "If you have been in Israel/Palestinian Territories and have witnessed or been a victim of terrorism, war crimes or crimes against humanity, then you can report this to the UK police."

"UK policing is supporting the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating alleged war crimes in Israel and Palestine from June 2014 onwards. Any evidence gathered may be shared with the ICC in support of their investigation," the poster added.

During a joint press conference in November with British-Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sittah, who spent some time in war-torn Gaza Tayab Ali, the director of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians, announced that his organisation had set up a unit collecting first-hand evidence and witness testimonies of violations in the Palestinian enclave to provide Scotland Yard.

Abu Sittah, who volunteered at several Gaza hospitals last year, said he would also inform police about what he saw during his time there.

Israel has targeted hospitals, journalists and refugee camps in its bombing of Gaza, which has killed more than 23,000 people, mostly women and children.

Prompting criticism and fury by some British officials and British Jewish leaders, the Met Police has defended its investigation, saying it was obliged to probe alleged war crimes under international agreement.

"As the UK’s investigative authority for war crimes, Counter Terrorism Policing – through the Met’s war crimes team – has a responsibility to support International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations," said a Scotland Yard spokesman earlier this month.

The International Court of Justice held its second hearing on Friday as Israel defended its defence in a case submitted by South Africa last month over genocide in Gaza.

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The UK has expressed unwavering support for Israel’s "right to defend itself" since Hamas's 7 October attacks, which killed around 1,200 people.

But like many of Israel’s allies, the UK has said it was alarmed over the very high civilian death toll in Gaza.

Foreign Minister David Cameron earlier this week said he was worried that Israel may have breached international law in Gaza, saying he was "deeply concerned" and what he had seen from the Palestinian territory.

Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza has brought utter destruction to the tiny coastal enclave with huge amounts of civilian infrastructure in ruins.