* Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
* The Guardian, Wednesday 22 April 2009
Britain announced last night that it is to review all its military exports to Israel in the light of the recent offensive in the Gaza Strip which killed around 1,400 Palestinians.
In a written statement to MPs, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, announced that all current and future licences permitting the export of military equipment would be reviewed in the light of the three-week Operation Cast Lead.
Miliband said Britain provided less than 1% of Israel’s military imports. But he acknowledged that some components supplied by Britain were “almost certainly” used by Israel in its military offensive. These were:
“¢ Israeli reconnaissance satellites, for which Britain supplies minor components, which could have been used to provide information to the Israeli army. Miliband said: “We assess that these might have been used to prepare the operation but would not have played a significant part in the operation itself.”
“¢ F16 aircraft were “widely used” to deliver precision-guided bombs, and incorporate British components. Britain has banned the export of F16 components directly to Israel since 2002. But British F16 components are exported to the US “where Israel was the ultimate end user”.
“¢ Apache attack helicopters, which incorporate British components, exported to the US for use on helicopters “ultimately destined for Israel”.
“¢ Saar-class corvette naval vessels, which incorporate a British 76mm gun, and took part in operations from waters off Gaza.
“¢ Armoured personnel carriers, which included conversions of British-supplied Centurion tanks, and were used as mobile headquarters. The Centurions were sold to Israel in the late 1950s.
Miliband said that exports of military equipment to Israel require export licences which are subject to strict criteria. The most important state that the equipment must not be used for internal repression, must not provoke or prolong armed conflicts, and that the equipment will not be diverted within the buyer country.
Miliband said that the US provides 95% of Israel’s military equipment, with the EU supplying the rest. Britain provides 1%.
All licences covering this would be reviewed in the light of the Israeli military action. “It is inherent … that judgments are in part based on past practice, so evidence from Operation Cast Lead will be used in all future applications. I can confirm that we are looking at all extant licences to see whether any need to be reconsidered in light of recent events in Gaza,” he said.