The video emerged on Monday. It appears to show a man searching for his family amid the rubble of Gaza, apparently during a ceasefire. He is shot by a sniper. For a while he lies there, moving awkwardly. Then he is shot again.
The component parts of the sniper rifle may have been made in the UK. After Israel’s 2009 incursion into Gaza — Operation Cast Lead – the Commons committee on strategic export controls found British arms exports “almost certainly” were used in the attack, in direct contravention of the UK’s policy that arms exports should not be used in the occupied territories.
The military equipment sold to Israel includes parts for sniper rifles and small-arms ammunition, ground-based radar, military aircraft engines and navigation equipment, military communications and unmanned drones. Britain also supplied components for cockpit displays in US F-16 combat aircraft sold to Israel, engine assemblies for their US Apache helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and components for the guns and radar in Israeli Sa’ar-class corvettes.
Then-foreign secretary David Miliband told the Commons all future arms-related applications would be assessed “taking into account the recent conflict”. After all, it is against Department for Business rules for an export licence to be granted where there is a clear risk they might be used to “provoke or prolong conflict within a country” or “be used aggressively against another country”. Either criteria, depending on how you choose to look at it, could be applied to the Gaza crisis.
Britain even revoked a handful of licenses, all related to parts for an Israeli navy gunboat known as the Saar 4.5 Class Corvette, which was likely used to shell Gaza.
‘Israel and the Palestinian territories’ is the biggest recipient of approved export licences from the Foreign Office’s list of 27 countries of human rights concerns. They are worth £7.8 billion to the UK, towering over China’s £1.5 billion or Saudi Arabia’s £1.8 billion. Of that £7.8 billion, just £5,539 goes to the Occupied Territories.
The number seems massive, especially given Britain is responsible for just one per cent of Israel’s military imports (most come from the US). The vast majority of the figure is irrelevant. It’s made up of a single licence approval for “equipment employing cryptography and software for equipment employing cryptography” — phone masts, basically. Put that to one side and you have what experts believe to be about £10 million in military contracts.