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UK issues over 100 arms export licences to Israel since Gaza war

The UK government has revealed that it has issued 108 arms export licences to Israel between October 7th 2023 and May 2204. Among these, 37 were categorised as military and 63 as non-military, which may include telecommunications equipment for use by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). This brings the total number of ‘active licences’ for arms sales from the UK to Israel to 345, including those issued before October 7th.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others back to Gaza as hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive since then.

The Department for Business and Trade released the export figures due to “exceptional circumstances, and the significant Parliamentary and public interest.” Despite the ongoing conflict and the significant humanitarian crisis in Gaza, no licences have been revoked, nor any applications refused. Currently, 185 applications are still pending.

Emily Apple, media coordinator of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), criticized the lack of transparency in the data released, noting, “This data release was supposed to address the political and public interest in arms sales to Israel. The figures released do not do this as they do not give any details of the equipment exported or its value.”

In response to calls for an arms embargo, ministers in three separate decisions in December, April, and May rejected suspending arms exports to Israel, citing consistency with legal advice. Numerous international bodies and UK campaign groups have raised concerns that Israel’s use of military equipment in Gaza risks breaching international humanitarian law, a key consideration in the UK’s criteria for arms export licences.

Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, condemned the UK’s actions, stating, “The UK’s continued arms exports to Israel amidst a brutal and ongoing conflict in Gaza is not just irresponsible but deeply unethical. This lack of accountability and transparency in the export licensing system is alarming and must be addressed immediately.”

The value of UK-approved arms export licences to Israel was £42 million in 2022, with the figure for 2023 expected to be released soon. Since 2008, the British government has sold weapons and military components worth more than £570 million to Israel.

For more on arms exports to Israel, please see AOAV’s report ‘Who is Arming Israel?‘: