Amnesty charges Israel and Hamas over Gaza

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has accused the British government of “aiding Israeli war crimes” during the Gaza conflict, and called for a UN arms embargo.

In a 38-page report, Fuelling conflict: foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza, Amnesty said both Israel and Hamas had used weapons supplied from abroad to attack civilians.

Israel’s arms included US-made shells used for deploying white phosphorus, and British engines made in Lichfield, Staffordshire, used in drone aircraft, it claimed.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called the document “pernicious and biased”.

Amnesty said its researchers had found evidence of “serious violations” of international law, including Hamas rocket attacks on Israel which also constituted war crimes because they were indiscriminate and directly targeted civilians.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said a recent review of exports to Israel had uncovered no evidence to suggest the government was not properly applying EU and national export controls.

“It is not yet completely clear what equipment was used by the IDF in Gaza. We will take into account the conduct of the IDF in the recent conflict in our assessment of future export licences,” she said.

But Oliver Sprague, Amnesty’s arms controls campaigner, called on the government to reveal whether it had checked with Israel about the use of the engines.

“In cases like these, if the government doesn’t proactively check on where UK equipment ends up it will never be able to guarantee that arms sales won’t end up fuelling human rights violations,” he said.

Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East director, urged the UN to “impose an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups” until an assurance was provided that military equipment would not be used to “commit serious violations of international law”.

Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, said: “In calling for an arms embargo of Israel, Amnesty is doing nothing short of denying Israel the right to self-defence, an internationally accepted right of every sovereign nation.

“Amnesty has now become the research arm for, and a proponent of, the extremist anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

Lior Ben Dor, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London, said: “All the weapons and munitions used by Israel are considered legal by international law and conventions.”

Last updated: 1:39pm, February 26 2009