Global support for Palestine is splitting the Tories!

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The burnt-out shell of the Al-Shifa Hospital left in ruins by the Israeli forces

THE intensifying global condemnation of Israel’s fatal attack on international humanitarian workers in Gaza is putting immense strain on the British government’s unconditional backing of Israel’s actions.

This crisis is unfolding as Members of Parliament, including Tories, are urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to reconsider Britain’s stance in the light of an airstrike that claimed the lives of seven aid workers, among them three UK nationals, this past Monday.

A growing contingent of Conservative Party members, among them three backbenchers and a former minister now serving in the House of Lords, are vocalising their stance that the UK must cease its arms exports to Israel.

The MPs, David Jones, Paul Bristow, and Flick Drummond, alongside Tory peer Hugo Swire, have all echoed calls for a halt in arms exports, aligning with the sentiments of Peter Ricketts, previously a national security adviser under David Cameron and now a Lord, who has similarly expressed concerns.

Lord Ricketts, in a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview has highlighted ample evidence of Israel’s failure to protect civilian lives, a fundamental obligation for recipients of UK arms, under international humanitarian laws.

This perspective is backed by a YouGov survey, carried out prior to the killings, which reveals a significant clash between the government and Labour’s positions and public opinion: A majority of which, 56% to 17%, advocates an embargo on arms sales to Israel.

Despite growing calls for transparency, the UK government has yet to disclose its legal advice on the matter. However, previous leaked materials suggest its own lawyers believe Israel has indeed contravened international humanitarian law in Gaza.

This criticism extends beyond political figures; Alex Younger, former head of MI6, has come down heavily against the recklessness of Israel’s operations in Gaza.

Recently, humanitarian groups have also revealed that the Israeli military was forewarned about the identities and nationalities of the aid workers tragically killed.

This has prompted Anthony Albanese, Australian Prime Minister, to intensify his criticism, labelling the act as a violation of humanitarian law, given that the Israeli military was fully aware of the seven workers’ presence. Aligning with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, he labelled Israel’s justifications as ‘insufficient’ and ‘unacceptable’.

The convoy, consisting of three vehicles marked by the charity World Central Kitchen (WCK), was targeted by Israeli drones on Monday while on a pre-arranged route approved by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) near Deir al-Balah.

Marc Purcell, chief executive of the Australian Council for International Development, expressed disbelief at the IDF not knowing the aid workers’ identities, considering their presence was fully acknowledged by the IDF.

This was echoed by Juliette Touma, communications director for the UN agency UNRWA, who highlighted the detailed ‘deconfliction’ process undertaken with Israeli authorities before any aid delivery, involving sharing extensive information including the names and nationalities of all personnel involved.

WCK’s founder, José Andrés, has also asserted that the charity was targeted deliberately by the IDF, which was aware of the convoy’s movement.

This incident, while unique in the manner in which it has captured the world’s attention due to the nationalities of the aid workers involved, is far from the first targeted murder of aid workers in Gaza – with more than 190 killed in the last six months alone.

Moreover, in the latest in a series of letters by prominent legal experts to the UK government, 600 lawyers including more than 60 KCs, retired senior judges and academics have sounded the alarm on UK government’s breach of international law as it continues to provide arms and diplomatic cover to the Netanyahu government.

The 17-page letter addressed to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, reiterates the International Court of Justice’s finding, that there is a plausible risk of genocide being committed in Gaza, and provides a legal opinion on UK’s obligations under international law to act urgently in order to prevent it.

The letter characterises the present situation in Gaza as ‘catastrophic’ and goes on to say: ‘While we welcome the increasingly robust calls by your government for a cessation of fighting and the unobstructed entry to Gaza of humanitarian assistance, simultaneously to continue (to take two striking examples) the sale of weapons and weapons’ systems to Israel and to maintain threats of suspending UK aid to UNRWA, falls significantly short of your government’s obligations under international law.’

The letter goes on to demand a comprehensive ceasefire, sanctions against individuals inciting violence against Palestinians, and a reinstatement of funding to UNRWA as essential steps towards addressing the humanitarian crisis and preventing genocide.

Meanwhile, the TUC keeps its head in the sand and refuses to call a general strike to support Gaza and defeat Israel.

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