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Senior Tory MP says government lawyers believe ‘Israel has broken international humanitarian law’ – but advice not published | Politics News


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The UK government has been given legal advice that Israel “has broken humanitarian law” but has not announced it, according to a senior Tory MP.

Under international law, countries must deny the exports of arms if there is an overriding risk that weapons could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of humanitarian law, human rights law, or other serious crimes.

Alicia Kearns, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, has claimed government lawyers have told the UK that Israel is not complying with its international commitments, but has not disclosed this and continues arms exports.

Last week, the International Court of Justice made a legally binding order for Israel to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, warning that “famine is setting in”. This comes as part of the case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide.

Israel stringently denies the allegation, stating that it is engaged in military self-defence following the 7 October attacks committed by Hamas.

There have been allegations that Israel has broken international law through cutting water, electricity, and food to Gaza, as well as through not administering aid as the occupying power.

Israel has also been found by the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) to have been in violation of international law after two “clearly identifiable journalists” were killed in Lebanon in October last year.

Further concerns have been raised about a recent incident in Lebanon where an exploding shell injured UNIFIL observers.

Read more:
Truce talks to resume – reports
Injuries as shell explodes near UN observers in Lebanon
Israeli ‘examining’ attack on aid shelter after Sky investigation

On Saturday evening, The Observer published a recording of Ms Kearns speaking to a local Conservative meeting in London on 13 March.

Alice Kearns
Ms Kearns is chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee

She said: “The Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law but the government has not announced it.

“They have not said it, they haven’t stopped arms exports.

“They have done a few very small sanctions on Israeli settlers – and everyone internationally is agreed that settlers are illegal, that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and the ways in which they have continued and the money that’s been put in.”

Asked about her comments this weekend, Ms Kearns said: “I remain convinced the government has completed its updated assessment on whether Israel is demonstrating a commitment to international humanitarian law, and that it has concluded that Israel is not demonstrating this commitment, which is the legal determination it has to make.

“Transparency at this point is paramount, not least to uphold the international rules-based order.”

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Ms Kearns published a letter sent to her by Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron on 15 March, in which he said it was “of enormous frustration” that aid had been delayed entering Gaza – blaming “arbitrary denials” and stating the Israeli government was one of the “main blockers” of the aid.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We keep advice on Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law under review and ministers act in accordance with that advice, for example when considering export licences.

“The content of the government’s advice is confidential.”

Lord Cameron has repeatedly laid out the UK’s position that Israel – as the “occupying power” in Gaza – has the responsibility to ensure aid is being supplied to civilians.

This responsibility has “consequences” – including in the way the UK assesses whether Israel is complying with international law.

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Asked by Ms Kearns about legal advice in January, Lord Cameron said he could not remember “every single bit of paper that has been put in front of me” – although he does “look at everything”.

The Liberal Democrat’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Layla Moran, said on Sunday: “If the government has received advice that the Israeli Government is in breach of international law then it must make this public immediately and halt arms sales to Israel.

“It would be completely unacceptable for the government to take any other measures.”

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