Outrage in UK at Israel over killing of 'hero' aid workers in Gaza

Outrage in UK at Israel over killing of 'hero' aid workers in Gaza
A former national security adviser has said that the UK should stop arming Israel following the killing of World Central Kitchen workers.
4 min read
03 April, 2024
The UK has been facing growing calls to end its arms sales to Israel [GETTY]

The UK government is facing calls to halt arms exports to Israel, as nationwide anger erupts over the killing of three British aid workers in Gaza by Israeli strikes on Monday.

John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47 - reportedly former UK servicemen - were working in Gaza for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity when their vehicle was struck by an Israeli missile, ending the lives of all seven aid workers onboard.

The killing of the three British men - dubbed "heroes" by some media outlets - has prompted huge anger in the UK at the Israeli government and reignited calls for an arms embargo on Israel.

Conservative peer Peter Ricketts, a former national security advisor and a former permanent secretary at the UK Foreign Office, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there's abundant evidence now that Israel hasn't been taking enough care to fulfil its obligations on the safety of civilians.

"A company that gets arms from the UK has to comply with international humanitarian law. That's a condition of the arms export licence. So honestly, I think the time has come to send that signal."

He said this might send a "powerful" political message to Israel and "stimulate" the US to consider doing the same.

The tragedy has drawn widespread backlash against Israel, with right-wing media outlets - typically sympathetic to Israel - outraged by the killings.

The Daily Mail's leading headlines covering the story included the words "Anger" and "Fury", while MailOnline detailed how the assault happened in devastating detail.

The Sun - dubbing the three former servicemen as "heroes" - claimed a "rogue" Israeli unit was responsible for the strike on the clearly-marked humanitarian convoy and Israeli military sources said they were "out of control".

Yet they are just three of scores of aid workers killed in Gaza. At least 196 humanitarians have been killed in the occupied Palestinian Territory since Israel's brutal assault began in October, with healthcare facilities and aid distribution points the scenes of horrifying massacres committed by Israeli forces.

The targeting of humanitarian facilities and aid workers has led to accusations that Israel is deliberately orchestrating a man-made famine in Gaza.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the three British men as "brave men" and their deaths as an "awful, awful tragedy", indirectly warning Israel of the "increasingly intolerable" situation in Gaza. 

He called for an urgent investigation into the killings and demanded an explanation from Israel.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said the tragedy "outrageous and unacceptable" and demanded humanitarian law be protected.

Both have been slammed by the public for their "pathetic" response to the "murder" of three former British servicemen with calls for a harsher response by London to Israel, including cutting arms supplies.

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These calls will likely increase if it is proven that the engine in the Hermes 450 drone responsible for their deaths was UK-made, as has been suggested by the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP).

ICJP Public Affairs and Communications Officer Liam Doherty said in a statement: "By refusing to implement the very checks meant to prevent misuse of UK weaponry, the UK government has given carte blanche to any atrocities committed with them. 

"The illegality of arms sales to Israel is clear. The question, now, is how far government officials are willing to take it: in the knowledge that they may risk criminal liability for complicity in the atrocities which Israel has committed – and which it will continue to commit, unless its genocide is stopped."

The UK government has summoned the Israeli ambassador over the killings and demanded an explanation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since Israel's devastating war on Gaza began in October - killing around 33,000 Palestinians - there have been wider calls in the UK for a suspension of arms sales to Israel.

The UK government has licensed weapons exports to Israel worth over £574 million to Israel, according to government export data analysed by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) with fears that UK-made weaponry could be responsible for many of those killed in the Israeli onslaught.