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UK approved £14m in arms sales to Israel during Gaza protests: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Medics evacuate a Palestinian woman who inhaled tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest at the border fence separating the besieged Gaza Strip from the Israeli-occupied territories on June 21, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Recent findings have revealed that the United Kingdom rubber-stamped arms sales worth over £14 million ($17.8 million) to the Tel Aviv regime last year despite the fact that Israeli soldiers were accused of intentionally firing on Palestinian protesters along the fence separating the besieged Gaza Strip from the Israeli-occupied territories.

Weapons approved for sale included ammunition, components for assault rifles, and other types of arms which could be used for repression, according to newly released details from the Department of International Trade (DIT), compiled by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

One sale for more than $125,000 worth of military training equipment was licensed on 18 May last year.

The sale was approved the same week former British Prime Minister Theresa May called the Palestinian killings "extremely concerning," and said there was an urgent need to find out why Israeli forces had used live fire.

“While we do not question the right of Israel to defend its borders, the use of live fire and the resulting loss of life is deeply troubling. We urge Israel to show restraint,” May said at the time.

Even though seven British lawmakers later called for greater scrutiny of arms sales to Israel and some even called for an outright ban, London pressed ahead with arms sales to the Israeli regime, including military radar equipment, missile technology and night-vision gear, totaling about $18 million between March 30 until the end of the year.

The revelations come after a UK court ordered the British government last week to stop approving arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it failed to fully assess whether the weapons might be used in breach of international humanitarian law in the atrocious military campaign Yemen.

CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith said whilst it is not clear whether UK-made weapons were specifically used on Gaza protesters, it is the symbolism of the British sales, which have continued through Israeli offensives on the impoverished Palestinian coastal enclave in 2008 and 2014, that matters.

"If shooting on the border didn't stop the arms sales, if the bombardment in 2014 and 2008 didn't stop them, what more will it take? The message it sends is that, no matter what atrocities are inflicted on the Palestinian people, arms sales will continue,” Smith said.

By continuing to arm and support the Israeli military, he added, the UK is “only making it more likely that UK-made weapons will play a devastating role in the future.”

Palestinians have held weekly rallies on the Gaza border to protest the siege on the enclave and demand the right for refugees to return to their homes they were forced from during the 1948 creation of Israel.

More than 270 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in Gaza on March 30, 2018. Over 16,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14 last year, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

UK confirms joint F-35 fighter jet exercise with Israel

Meanwhile, the British military acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that its F-35 stealth fighter jets carried out a joint exercise with their Israeli counterparts.

British Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement that that the jets' first operational mission from Royal Air Force Akrotiri base in Cyprus was made following a highly successful training period.

“Their first real operational mission is a significant step into the future for the UK,” Mordaunt said.

Officials said the Lightning F-35B warplanes didn't fire any weapons when flying alongside Typhoon jets during the missions over Syria and Iraq.

Lightning F-35B warplanes land at Royal Air Forces Akrotiri base near coastal city of Limassol in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on May 21, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Military cooperation between the United Kingdom and Israel have increased recently.

Israeli aircraft will, for the first time, participate in an exercise in the Combat Warrior exercise in Britain in September.

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