THE UK government and arms industry is complicit in Israel’s killing of seven aid workers in Gaza, including three British citizens, says Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The workers were killed by a strike from a Hermes 450 drone manufactured by Elbit Systems. The Hermes 450 is powered by a UK-made R902(W) Wankel engine, produced by Elbit subsidiary UAV Engines Limited in the UK.

The deaths of the aid workers follows revelations that the Foreign Office is hiding legal advice that Israel is breaching International Humanitarian Law (IHL), according to Foreign Affairs committee chair Alicia Kearns. The news of the suppressed legal advice was revealed in the Observer from a recorded speech Kearns made at a fundraiser.

According to its own arms export licensing criteria, the government must halt arms sales when there is a clear risk they could be used in IHL violations. On 19 February, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) and Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organisation, were refused permission to take the government to court over its arms sales. The refusal was based on the grounds that the government is carrying out a rolling review process. They have now been granted an oral hearing to argue again for the case to be allowed to proceed.

Since 2015, the UK has licensed £487million worth of weapons to Israel. However, this does not include equipment exported via open licences. In particular, 15 per cent of the value of every US-made F-35 combat aircraft, which Israel uses to bomb Gaza, is made in the UK, exports for which are covered by an open licence with no limit on the quantity or value of exports. CAAT conservatively estimates that the work on the 36 F-35s exported to Israel up to 2023 has been worth at least £368 million to the UK arms industry.

CAAT’s media spokesperson, Emily Apple said: “This government is complicit in the murder of UK aid workers in Gaza. It has had every opportunity to impose an arms embargo and has refused to do so. While our thoughts are with the families and friends of the aid workers killed, they are also with the families and friends of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been killed by Israel.

“Not only is our government complicit in genocide, it knows it. Time and again David Cameron and Foreign Office ministers have refused to answer direct questions on the legal advice they’ve received. They have misled parliament and made a mockery of both our democracy and international law.

“It is clear this government has nothing but contempt for Palestinian people. Despite Israel deliberately causing a famine, in which over a million people face starvation, and despite killing tens of thousands of people, this government has chosen to prioritise the profits of arms dealers over Palestinian lives.

“Every day people are taking action against arms companies profiting from the genocide Israel is committing. This has to continue. Every single company that supplies weapons or military must be held to account. Our government has failed us, and it has failed the Palestinian people, and it has failed its own citizens. It is down to us to take action.”

One of the aid workers killed in the attack, James Henderson, was from Falmouth in Cornwall. A spokesperson for Palestine Solidarity Cornwall said: “We are devastated to hear that James Henderson – known as Jimmy to his friends – was one of the aid workers killed by a targeted strike from Israel, and our deepest thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends. We will not speak on their behalf. We will be gathering to pay our respects and show our solidarity to James – and to all of the needlessly martyred people of Palestine – as we have been doing week in and out since this genocide escalated in October.

“It is scandalous that nearing 200 aid workers have been killed, and the inevitable deterrent this will pose for the already extremely restricted yet essential aid. This is a deliberate attempt to ensure the war crime of starvation Israel has engineered cannot be stalled by foreign aid. James is one of over 37,000+ people to be murdered since the start of October, each one an individual with a life, a story and a family, and our politicians can no longer look away. James’s death, like the 37,000 deaths it numbers in, like the 14000 children who have been murdered, could have been prevented by our government, and others around the world, ceasing arms deals with Israel and refusing to support a genocide. They are guilty, this blood is on their hands.”

* Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade