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by Chris Marshall
04 April 2024
First Minister Humza Yousaf calls for ban on arms sales to Israel

The first minister has reiterated calls for a ban on weapons exports | Alamy

First Minister Humza Yousaf calls for ban on arms sales to Israel

First Minister Humza Yousaf has reiterated his call for the UK to ban the license of arms exports to Israel following an airstrike which killed seven aid workers.

Israel has said a strike which killed those working for World Central Kitchen (WCK) – including three Britons – was a “grave mistake”.

But the charity’s founder has accused Israel of targeting his staff “systematically, by car”. WCK has called for an independent investigation into what happened.

In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Yousaf said: “In my letter to you of 23 February, I called upon the UK Government to ban the license of arms exports from the UK to Israel, given the risk of increasing bloodshed caused by Israel’s threat to carry out a ground offensive into Rafah. I note that I have yet to receive a response and you have taken no such action, despite the death-toll continuing to increase.

“The latest tragedy, which saw three British aid workers killed amongst others by an Israeli air strike against a World Central Kitchen convoy, has caused global outrage. I note your public statement calling for an immediate investigation, however over 190 humanitarian workers have died in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict, with no end in sight, no accountability, and little or no sign of Israel paying heed to the International Court of Justice’s ruling or the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution.

“In spite of this, the UK Government continue to allow British-based companies to arm Israel despite the fact that Israel has killed children, women, aid workers and bombed hospitals, schools and refugee camps. I have said repeatedly that Israel has the right to defend itself and called for hostages to be released. I believe, however, that Israel’s actions have long since gone beyond a legitimate response. Enough is enough. The Israeli Government must be held to account.”

Yousaf said that by not ending arms sales to Israel, the UK was in danger of “being complicit in the killing of innocent civilians”.

The SNP has called for the recall of parliament at Westminster to discuss the growing crisis in Gaza. Labour has said the government should stop arms sales if Israel is found to have broken international law.

Yesterday, Sunak resisted calls to immediately suspend weapons sales to Israel, saying the issue was being kept under review.

In an interview with The Sun, the prime minister said: “We've always had a very careful export licensing regime that we adhere to. There are a set of rules, regulations and procedures that we'll always follow.”

WCK announced that it had suspended operations on Tuesday, putting humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in doubt.

Speaking to the BBC, Nir Barkat, a member of Israel's war cabinet, said Israel was “terribly sorry” about killing the seven aid workers, but that “unfortunately, in wars friendly fire happens”.

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