UK threatens Israel with arms embargo


Cameron warned Israeli officials during talks that Europe could impose an arms embargo if Israel persists in denying access to members of Hamas being held in prison..reports Asian Lite News

The UK has reportedly warned Israel that it will withhold weapons unless the Red Cross is granted access to jailed Hamas militants.

Rights groups and Israeli media have highlighted the severe conditions in which Palestinian prisoners are currently held, with at least 10 Palestinians killed in Israeli prisons since October, in addition to the deaths of 24 people in the custody of the Israel Defense Forces.

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that a British legal team visited Israel earlier in the month to investigate the situation, and claimed that all prisoners in Israel, including Hamas suspects, should be allowed a visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross, in line with the Geneva Convention.

Israel claims an exemption to that law on security grounds.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron warned Israeli officials during recent talks that Europe could impose an arms embargo if Israel persists in denying access to members of Hamas being held in prison.

This follows reports in February that the UK was considering withholding arms should Israel attack the city of Rafah in Gaza.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz reportedly sent a letter to Cameron urging the UK to support Israel and not weaken its stance during ongoing negotiations with Hamas for a ceasefire and the release of hostages.

He is said to have told Cameron that there was “no room” for restricting the supply of weapons at such a pivotal moment in the negotiations, The Telegraph reported.

Israel’s National Security Council reportedly held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday to consider a petition from a leading Israeli rights group that demanded Red Cross access to prisoners from Hamas. The council reportedly unanimously decided against allowing such visits.

Israeli spokesman Levy suspended

Israel’s English-language government spokesman Eylon Levy has been suspended. The Israeli prime minister’s office has not given a reason. But it is understood that the decision is linked to a recent online row with the UK Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron.

Levy has so far not commented. On 8 March, he wrote a now-deleted post on X responding to another one from Lord Cameron that urged Israel “to allow more [aid] trucks into Gaza”.

“I hope you are also aware there are NO limits on the entry of food, water, medicine, or shelter equipment into Gaza, and in fact the crossings have EXCESS capacity,” Levy replied.

“Test us. Send another 100 trucks a day to Kerem Shalom and we’ll get them in,” he added, referring to an Israeli-controlled border crossing.

Two days earlier, he had written another post criticising a statement issued by Lord Cameron after a meeting with an Israeli minister in London.

Israel’s Channel 12 News reported on Tuesday that Levy was suspended shortly after the UK Foreign Office wrote to Israel’s foreign ministry to express its “surprise” and seek clarification on whether Mr Levy’s posts represented the Israeli government’s official position.

The Financial Times cited a person familiar with the matter as characterising the British query as: “Is this the way allies speak to each other?”

There was no immediate response from Levy. But he described himself as an Israeli government spokesman in several posts on X on Tuesday. Levy, who is in his 30s, was born in the UK and emigrated to Israel in 2014.

He served in Cogat, the Israeli defence ministry body that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, worked as a TV news anchor and was most recently international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog.

Dowden defends Israel

Britain’s deputy prime minister defended Israel’s right to protect itself amid growing tension between the Middle Eastern country and its biggest backers, but called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza on humanitarian grounds. Oliver Dowden said the British government was “continuously” urging Israel to abide by international humanitarian law and had also raised concerns about getting aid into Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis is raging after six months of fighting.

“That’s why we are calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow that aid in, and crucially, the hostages to come out,” he said in an interview in Seoul, where he was attending a U.S.-backed Summit for Democracy. Dowden’s comments came in response to a query about tension between Israel and its most steadfast allies in the United States over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s handling of the war, particularly an expected military push into Rafah, the last relatively safe place in the tiny, crowded enclave.

The United Nations human rights chief on Tuesday said Israel’s restrictions on humanitarian aid for Gaza may amount to a starvation tactic that could be a war crime, after a U.N.-backed report found famine is likely by May without an end to the fighting.U.S. President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu on Monday that an Israeli operation in Rafah would deepen anarchy in Gaza and they agreed that teams from each side would meet in Washington to discuss it.

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