Ministers have been accused of ignoring evidence that Israel has breached arms licence criteria by killing civilians

The UK government is being taken to court over its refusal to stop selling weapons to Israel despite evidence of civilian killings, openDemocracy can reveal.

Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq and UK-based Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) are suing the government because it has "repeatedly ignored" their claims that Israel has breached the UK's criteria for licensing arms exports.

The groups said Israel has broken international law by killing more than 11,000 Palestinians since 7 October and forcing the deportation of more than a million more from northern Gaza.

Under the UK Strategic Licensing Criteria, the export of weapons is forbidden when there is a clear risk that they might be used to violate international law.

The government has approved millions of pounds worth of licences for military equipment to Israeli forces since 2015. They include components for F-35 fighter jets, which can deliver ground strikes and have been pictured in recent social media posts from the Israeli Air Force.

In the past, the UK has paused export licences in response to reports that its criteria may have been breached.

Then foreign secretary Dominic Raab suspended arms exports to NATO ally Turkey after it invaded Syria in 2019, stating that the exports risked worsening the humanitarian crisis in the country.

The UK revoked some arms licences to Israel in 2009 after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in airstrikes by Israeli forces. During the 2014 conflict, the government warned it would suspend licences again if hostilities continued, but ultimately did not do so.

Dearbhla Minogue, a senior lawyer at GLAN, said: 'No self-respecting state should allow its weapons anywhere near the atrocities that Israel is currently committing against the entire population of Gaza.

"These licenses are outrageous, and I am curious to see how the UK government will defend itself before the High Court."

Gearóid Ó Cuinn, Global Legal Action Network

Gearóid Ó Cuinn, GLAN's director, said: 'The humanitarian situation in Gaza is the result of numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed over time.

"Recent statements by Israeli military leaders now obligate states to review their transfer of arms. There should be no doubt that these weapons are at acute risk of being used to commit further criminal acts and, possibly genocide."

Ahmed Abofoul, an international lawyer at Al-Haq, said: 'The UK has a legal and moral obligation to not grant licences for the sale of British weapons to regimes that commit atrocity crimes.

"Selling arms to Israel's settler-colonial and apartheid regime not only violates those obligations but could also give rise to the individual criminal responsibility for aiding, abetting or otherwise assisting in the commission of these crimes, including by providing the means for its commission."

The government previously confirmed to openDemocracy that it has "no plans" to suspend weapons licences Israel despite criticism from United Nations experts and human rights groups over civilian deaths.

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