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British arms companies are supplying key parts for Israel's Apache combat helicopters ...
anti-war / imperialism |
Sunday July 30, 2006 00:02 by Fiona G. - IAWM
F-15 and F-16 fighter jets deployed in southern Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.
Made in the UK, bringing devastation to Lebanon - the British parts in Israel's deadly attack helicopters
· Key parts for Israeli aircraft made in UK
· Rights groups say Apaches used for assassinations
Saturday July 29, 2006
Saturday July 29, 2006
British arms companies are supplying key parts for Israel's Apache combat helicopters, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets deployed in southern Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank despite government guidelines banning the sale of weapons likely to be used "aggressively against another country" or fuel regional tensions.
The disclosure follows anger among MPs this week after it emerged that the government allowed US planes carrying bombs and missiles to Israel to refuel at Prestwick airport.
British arms suppliers, including Smiths Industries and AgustaWestland, are among eight UK companies manufacturing components for Apaches ranging from power-management systems and parts for the rotor to helmet-mounted displays for the gunship operators.
MPE, a Liverpool-based manufacturer, sells electromagnetic filters used in bomb racks put on all F-15 fighter jets and the model of F-16s used by Israel.
Boeing, the sole supplier of Apaches, confirmed that the British-made components are included on all Apaches sent to Israel and a number of other countries.
"There are over 6,000 parts in the Apache manufactured literally worldwide," said John Schibler, director of Apache engineering at Boeing. "The UK is one of the largest contributors, and these are only the major components made by British companies."
The disclosures highlight weaknesses in British arms export controls days after the Foreign Office described the controls as "one of the most rigorous and transparent regimes in the world".
British arms controls also forbid exports "to countries where serious violations of human rights have been established" or "if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression". A Commons committee on arms export controls is expected to issue a strong statement on exports to Israel late next week despite pressure from some members to tone it down.
"The government's policy on exports to Israel is incoherent," Roger Berry, the chairman of the committee, told the Guardian. "They are adamant that they would not licence exports - weapons, equipment or components - if they could end up being deployed aggressively in the Occupied Territories. But ... there are clearly lots of British components in arms being used by the Israeli government in the Occupied Territories."
Israel was listed as a country of concern in last year's annual Foreign Office report on human rights and the government has said it would refuse arms export licences for any equipment that could be used aggressively by Israel. But F-16s, F-15s and Apaches have been used extensively by Israel in the recent attacks across Lebanon and Gaza, which have resulted in more than 500 civilian casualties to date. Last week Kim Howells, a Foreign Office minister, said the British embassy in Tel Aviv "has confirmed reports that Israel is using F16s in its incursions into Gaza and Lebanon".
Apaches are alleged by human rights groups to have been used by Israel for extra judicial assassinations, missile strikes in heavily populated civilian areas and the shelling of schools, medical facilities, refugee camps and civil society buildings.
"The Apache is not just equipment. For Palestinians it's a symbol of indiscriminate military violence," said Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group al-Haq. "From a young age every Palestinian child learns to distinguish the Apache's sound and associate it with assassinations, destruction and blood in the street."
Mr Howells defended the British system of arms export controls earlier this week. "We are proud of our defence export licensing system, which is one of the most rigorous and transparent regimes in the world," he said.
But arms control campaigners say the government makes little genuine effort to assess the final destinations of UK components and their use in human rights violations. Boeing provided the Guardian with data on the UK-originated parts in Apaches sent to Israel and eight other countries.
Since the recent upsurge in violence in Gaza and Lebanon, MPs have criticised the government for allowing American planes transporting military equipment to Israel to refuel at UK airports. Amnesty International and the thinktank Saferworld have called on the government to immediately stop all arms sales to Israel.
The Guardian contacted all of the British companies with parts in the Israeli Apaches. "We ensure that we follow the absolute letter of the law ..." said Dave Eldridge of Brimar, which manufactures helmet-mounted display systems for the Apaches. "But these components are commercially available worldwide. If British companies are prevented from supplying the Boeing Apaches because they'll get sent onwards to Israel is that going to stop them from being sent? Of course not, they'll just move on to other suppliers and it would make no difference beyond hurting British business."