Call to halt £23m-a-year exports of British weapons to Israel
THE British government yesterday faced calls to ban all military exports to Israel because of its attacks on Lebanon.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, made the demand as The Scotsman learned that British military technology sold to Israel with government approval is playing a key part in the bombardment of Lebanon.
Some bombs and missiles used against Lebanese targets have been fired from F-16 warplanes. Although the aircraft are made in the United States, a vital targeting system was manufactured in Britain.
The electronic "head-up" display unit that helps F-16 pilots lock on to ground-based targets is produced by BAE Systems, Britain's biggest defence company. Several of the systems were exported to Israel in 2002 via the US.
Diplomats at the British embassy in Tel Aviv
carried out an investigation and have confirmed that F-16s have taken part in "incursions" into Lebanon and have also been used in attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza.
Official figures show British military exports to Israel were worth 23 million last year and licences for 2 million of arms exports were granted between January and March this year.
"In light of disproportionate military action by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, the UK government must suspend any further arms exports to Israel," Sir Menzies said yesterday.
The F-16 display units were exported first to the US and then sold on to Israel as part of America's wider military support for Israeli forces.
The 2002 export to the US was authorised by Jack Straw, although it came under attack at the time from campaigners and Labour MPs. That military support might also soon include 100 controversial "bunker buster" bombs the Israelis could use to target Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, US and Saudi Arabian newspapers reported yesterday.
Sheikh Nasrallah last week survived a missile strike on what the Israelis said was a Hezbollah command bunker in Beirut.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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