The UK Government and arms firms based in Scotland have been condemned for arms sales to Israel after 16 children were killed in air strikes on Gaza.
The latest Israeli offensive – codenamed Breaking Dawn – killed 47 Palestinians and injured more than 300 people. Israel said it carried out “preemptive” raids on Gaza after arresting a senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group in the occupied West Bank.
Human rights campaigners in Scotland made fresh calls for the UK Government to stop selling arms to Israel. Since the Conservative government was elected in May 2015 the UK has licenced over £442m worth of arms to Israeli forces, said Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
The UK Government claimed that it operates “one of the most robust and transparent” export control regimes in the world. The Israeli military said it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties.
Almost 40 Palestinian children have been killed so far this year in the occupied territories. In many incidents, according to the UN, Israeli forces appeared to use lethal force in a manner that violates international human rights law.
The latest incident was the sixth round of fighting between Gaza’s militant groups and Israel since Hamas took over the strip in 2007. Israel said nearly 1,100 Palestinian projectiles were fired but there were no Israelis killed.
A ceasefire between Israel and PIJ held last week following almost three days of fighting that began on 6 August.
Five arms firms with a presence in Scotland have been criticised because they applied for export licences to sell arms to Israel, said CAAT. The companies are Leonardo, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Raytheon, and BAE Systems.
Leonardo makes components for Apache attack helicopters and delivered 30 Aermacchi M346 aircraft to the Israeli Air Force in 2016. US firm Raytheon – based in Fife – makes systems for Paveway smart bombs, which have been used in Gaza by the Israeli military.
Another US firm – Lockheed Martin – has supplied Israel with over 100 F-16I combat aircraft, as well as a rocket system. Lockheed is also prime contractor for the F-35 combat aircraft, which Israel is buying to replace F-16s. Lockheed Martin employs 2,000 people at 20 sites in the UK, including Glasgow.
BAE Systems is a partner with US arms firm Lockheed Martin on the F35 combat aircraft, which Israel uses. Thales – whose Glasgow factory was targeted by pro-Palestinian protestors in July – produces military drones. It was targeted due to its collaboration with Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems on the Watchkeeper Drone project.
Israel said that during Operation Breaking Dawn it hit 170 PIJ targets during the operation, killing several high-ranking PIJ members and destroying tunnels and weapon storage sites.
CAAT called for a suspension of arms sales, and a “full review” into whether UK weapons were used. CAAT’s Katie Fallon added: “UK made arms have been used against Palestinians before, but that has done nothing to halt the flow of weapons. These arms sales do not just provide military support, they also send a clear sign of political support for the occupation and blockade, and the violence that is being inflicted.”
Scottish Greens MSP Ross Greer accused Israel of being an “apartheid state” and of “systematically brutalising and collectively punishing” the Palestinian people. “Despite its long catalogue of atrocities, the Israeli government has always been able to count on the political, economic and military support of complicit governments like the one in Westminster,” Greer added.
“The attacks we saw a few days ago against innocent civilians, including children, were horrific. The arms dealers don’t care who uses their weapons or who they are used against. They only care about making a profit.”
Gerry Coutts, chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, accused Israel of “unleashing state of the art weaponry on a captive, imprisoned population” with the UK Government looking on, “nodding their approval”.
He added: “Families are ripped apart, their homes destroyed and infrastructure shattered, what remains after 17 years of siege and bombings. We welcome the ceasefire that has been called, but we know that it is only a matter of time before the next bombardment; the next news report of children and other civilians brutally killed.”
UK exports and beyond
A spokesperson for the UK Government’s Department for International Trade said the UK takes its export control responsibilities seriously. “We consider all our export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework and keep all licences under careful and continual review as standard,” the DIT added.
Leonardo, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Raytheon, and BAE Systems, were all asked to comment.
Israel has rejected claims it is an apartheid state. In a statement this year it accused Amnesty International of publishing a “false report” and using “double standards and demonization in order to delegitimize Israel”.
Amnesty’s report said the Israeli state maintains “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis”.
In 2021 The Ferret revealed that arms firms in Scotland who sell weapons to Israel received nearly £10m in grants from Scottish Enterprise.
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