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During the 2023/24 Israel-Hamas conflict, some MPs in the UK Parliament have raised concerns about UK arms exports to Israel, citing a risk that they could be used to violate international humanitarian law.

At the International Court of Justice, Israel has also been accused by South Africa of international humanitarian law violations in its military operations in Gaza. Israel’s Government states it is “committed” to conducting its military operations “in accordance with international law” and will investigate any alleged misconduct by its forces.

In December 2023 and April 2024, the government decided not to suspend existing licences or stop granting licences for export of arms to Israel and that all arms export licences are kept under review.

UK concerns about arms exports to Israel

In the UK, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to suspend export licences to Israel and not to grant any new licences.

Other organisations, such as Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and Saferworld, are also calling for the UK to halt arms exports to Israel.

Conservative government response to concerns

During the Conservative government, Ministers responded to such concerns by referencing the UK’s strategic export licencing system, under which all applications for a licence to export military equipment and related items are assessed against a set of criteria, and emphasised Israel’s right to defend itself within the bounds of international humanitarian law. The export criteria reflect, among other things, the UK’s obligations under international law, and the potential for the goods to be used in the violation of human rights.

The Government says export licences are kept under review (PDF) and can be amended, suspended, refused or revoked as circumstances require. The Government undertook a review of existing and pending licences (PDF) in December 2023.

On 18 December 2023 the Business and Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, decided not to suspend existing licences or stop granting licences, but to keep her decisions “under careful review”.

On 8 April 2024, following a further review, and advice from the Foreign Secretary, Kemi Badenoch decided that the government’s position “would remain unchanged” (PDF).

Data on exports to Israel

Since 2008, the UK has licenced arms worth over £576 million to Israel, according to analysis of Government export data by CAAT, a UK based pressure group that seeks an end to the global arms trade.

The value of licences granted has declined from £42 million in 2022 to £18.2 million in 2023.

On 13 June 2024, the government published data on licences granted to Israel since 7 October 2023 as an ad hoc publication. This followed pressure from MPs and the chair of the Business and Trade Committee to release such statistics. According to this publication, the government issued 42 licences between 7 October 2023 and 31 May 2024.  

Further information from the Commons Library

Further information about events in Gaza and Israel can be found in Commons Library briefings:

Further information on arms exports, the process for granting licences, changes to the criteria applied when assessing export licence applications, and some of the most commonly raised concerns can be found in Commons Library briefings:

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