UK 'evading responsibility' over Israeli arms exports after British military hardware found to be used in Gaza bombardment
The United Kingdom is being urged to make good on promises of robust checks on arms sales after new research revealed numerous British-made components are found in weapons used by Israel in its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
The research by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) shows UK-produced parts are used in the F-35 and F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters used by the Israeli military, according to The Independent.
Lockheed Martin, the American aerospace manufacturer that produces the F-35, says on its website that "the fingerprints of British ingenuity can be found on dozens of the aircraft's key components".
"More than 100 UK-based suppliers" including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce are involved in the production of the fighter jet, according to Lockheed Martin. The UK Defence Journal estimates around 15 percent of the jet is British-made.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military confirmed last week that F-35s were among the warplanes being used to pound Gaza.
Israel also uses F-16 jets, which are also produced by Lockheed Martin.
The jets include advanced targeting equipment produced in the UK, according to CAAT.
Apache helicopters used by the Israeli military and produced by Boeing use British-manufactured radar systems and navigation equipment, among other components.
When asked about the supply of such components to end-user Israel, a British government spokesperson told The Independent "the UK takes its arms export responsibilities extremely seriously".
"The government tells us that it's concerned, but it has failed to do the bare minimum, and has consistently refused to provide clear answers to very basic questions about whether UK-made arms that it sold are being used or not," Andrew Smith of CAAT told the British newspaper.
"It wouldn't be the first time. Time and again UK-made weapons and components have been used against Palestinians, and it looks like that is what has happened again," Smith said.
In 2009, then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that weapons used by the Israeli military in the brutal 2008-9 assault on the Gaza Strip "almost certainly" contained British-made parts.
Amnesty International has called for an immediate halt to arms sales to Israel and "any third country which could be using UK-supplied components to incorporate into weaponry supplied to Israel".
"In particular, UK ministers must say whether UK technology is still being used in the Israeli military drone programme – something that came to light as long ago as 2006 but is still largely shrouded in secrecy," said Oliver Feeley-Sprague, the organisation's military, security and policing programme director.
Labour Party MP Richard Burgon has backed calls for an arms embargo.
"Without this, our government's talk of supporting peace is not only empty rhetoric, it is actually complicit in Israel's war on the Palestinian people," Burgon said.
The UK has also come under fire for supplying arms to Saudi Arabia despite concerns over the weapons' use in Yemen.
"We are always told how robust arms export controls supposedly are, but nothing could be further from the truth," Smith said.