Britain could be breaking international law by arming Israel, Sunak is warned: Three ex-Supreme Court judges are among 600 legal experts warning UK over ‘catastrophic’ Gaza situation after ‘out of control’ IDF troops bombed aid convoy

Britain could be breaking international law by arming Israel, Sunak is warned: Three ex-Supreme Court judges are among 600 legal experts warning UK over ‘catastrophic’ Gaza situation after ‘out of control’ IDF troops bombed aid convoy

Britain risks breaching international law by continuing to allow the export of weapons to Israel, more than 600 legal experts last night warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The lawyers and experts, including former Supreme Court justices, said in a letter that the worsening situation in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s conclusion that there was a ‘plausible risk of genocide’ obliged the UK to suspend arms sales to the country.

It came at the end of a day of cross-party calls pressuring the Government to suspend arms exports to Israel following the news that three British nationals were among the seven aid workers killed on Monday night. 

Signatories including former Supreme Court President Lady Hale, former Supreme Court justices Lord Sumption and Lord Wilson, along with nine other judges and 69 KCs.

It comes as Israeli military sources warn that the Israeli units who killed the World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers, including three British veterans, are ‘out of control’ and ‘do whatever they like’ – despite assurances from Israel the strikes were a ‘grave mistake’ caused by ‘misidentification’. 

James Kirby, 47, was part of the WCK security team, killed in strikes in Gaza on Monday


Seven volunteers were killed in a series of strikes in Deir al-Balah, in Gaza, on Monday

The lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices, said in a letter published on Wednesday night that the worsening situation in Gaza and the International Court of Justice's conclusion that there was a 'plausible risk of genocide' obliged to UK to suspend arms sales to the country

Signatories included former Supreme Court justices Lord Sumption (pictured) and Lord Wilson, along with nine other judges and 69 KCs

Pictured: Lord Wilson

Labour‘s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has urged the Government to publish any legal advice it had received on whether Israel had broken international law, and to suspend arms sales if there was a risk weapons could be used in ‘a serious breach of international humanitarian law’.

He said: ‘The law is clear. British arms licences cannot be granted if there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

‘Labour’s message to the Government is equally clear. Publish the legal advice now. If it says there is a clear risk that UK arms might be used in a serious breach of international humanitarian law, it’s time to suspend the sale of those arms.’

On Tuesday, Downing Street declined to say whether it believed Israel was operating within international humanitarian law, saying it would not comment on legal advice but added ministers acted in accordance with any advice. 

The SNP and the Liberal Democrats have also called for arms exports to be suspended, as have Conservative MPs Flick Drummond and David Jones following a similar plea from Lord Ricketts, the former national security adviser to now-Foreign Secretary David Cameron

But PM Sunak said the UK had a ‘very careful’ arms export regime that it would ‘always follow’. 

He told The Sun newspaper’s Never Mind The Ballots show: ‘I think we’ve always had a very careful export licensing regime that we adhere to.

‘There are a set of rules, regulations and procedures that we’ll always follow, and I have been consistently clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu since the start of this conflict that while, of course, we defend Israel’s right to defend itself and its people against attacks from Hamas, they have to do that in accordance with international humanitarian law, protect civilian lives and, sadly, too many civilians have already lost their lives.

‘Get more aid into Gaza. That’s what we’ve consistently called for and what we want to see actually is an immediate humanitarian pause to allow more aid in and, crucially, the hostages to be released, and that’s what we’ll continue to push for.’

Lord Peter Ricketts, a former senior diplomat who chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee during the Blair government, had earlier said Israeli forces’ killing of the aid workers has sparked ‘global outrage’ as he called for an ‘immediate ceasefire’.

The crossbench peer, who served as national security adviser to the now-Foreign Secretary David Cameron, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think there is abundant evidence now that Israel hasn’t been taking enough care to fulfil its obligations on the safety of civilians, and a country that gets arms from the UK has to comply with international humanitarian law, that is a condition of the arms export licensing policy.

‘I think the time has come to send that signal.’

The Government does not directly supply Israel with weapons, but does grant export licences for British companies to sell arms to the country and can block those sales by suspending the licences.

The UK has taken this course twice before. Margaret Thatcher’s government suspended arms exports following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, while Tony Blair‘s government blocked sales of some military equipment in 2002. 

The United States remains by far the largest supplier of weapons to Israel, with Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell telling MPs before the Easter recess that UK exports accounted for just 0.02 per cent of Israel’s military imports. 

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People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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Ms Frankcom was one of seven World Central Kitchen volunteers killed in a series of Israeli airstrikes on Monday (pictured, the wreckage of one of the three cars)

Israeli airstrikes on Monday killed seven aid workers in Gaza who were delivering food to besieged Palestinians with the charity World Central Kitchen (WCK).

Killed were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian. Some had travelled the world, participating in aid efforts in the aftermath of wars, earthquakes and wildfires.

The three British victims were military veterans who had been in dangerous situations before. They died providing security for the WCK aid mission.

Kirby, 47, came from the port city of Bristol in southwest England and served in Bosnia and Afghanistan with the British Army before moving into private security work. According to his LinkedIn profile, he worked as a players’ escort at the 2021 Wimbledon tennis tournament.

Kirby’s cousin Amy Roxburgh-Barry called him an ‘all-round gentleman’ who was planning to give his mother and aunt a surprise cruise after he returned from Gaza.

‘It’s just devastating that he’s fought in these wars and come home with not a scratch, and then he goes out to do something helpful, and that’s what happens,’ she told Sky News.

Chapman, 57, was a Royal Marines veteran whose family said in a statement that they were devastated to lose him.

‘He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act,’ they said. ‘He was an incredible father, husband, son and brother.’

Henderson, who was 33 and known as Jim, was a former Royal Marine from Cornwall in southwest England, news outlets there reported. Sky News reported that he was due to leave Gaza on Monday, the day he was killed.

A former colleague of Mr Chapman has paid tribute to his late friend, warning he ‘wouldn’t go into Gaza now because I don’t trust the IDF’.

The 61-year-old ex-SAS Commando, who asked not to be named for security reasons, worked alongside Mr Chapman for several years on private work in the United Arab Emirates in the 1990s.

He told how ‘we all used to call’ John, who worked alongside them in the Special Boat Service (SBS), ‘Happy Chappy Chapman’. ‘He was great, always a laugh,’ he said.

The source said he had been in Israel before Christmas but warned that ‘Gaza is a completely different situation’ as ‘there is no accountability with the IDF’.

‘John and the others were travelling in a clearly-identified vehicle, providing aid, along the approved route, and they were unarmed,’ he said. ‘Yet someone in the IDF pulled the trigger on them – where’s the accountability?’

Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, Australian Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankom 43, American Jacob Flickinger, 33, and Pole Damian Sobol, 35, were also travelling with the group when they were attacked on Monday.

WCK staff were seen mourning their dead colleagues as their bodies were loaded into an ambulance

Britons John Chapman, James

Celebrity chef José Andrés (pictured), the founder of the charity, said: 'Today WCKitchen lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza. I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family'

Heavily damaged vehicle of the officials working at the US-based international volunteer aid organisation World Central Kitchen (WCK), on April 2

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen that was wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip

People carry the body of one of the foreign workers from World Central Kitchen who was killed in the airstrike as the bodies are transported to their families outside of Gaza

The aid convoy was hit as it was leaving its Deir al-Balah warehouse after unloading more than 100 tons of food aid brought to Gaza by sea, WCK said. 

Speaking to MailOnline, Chapman’s former colleague remembered him as having a ‘typical SBS sense of humour’, adding that he ‘took his work very seriously and was very professional’.

He said they worked together between 1994 and 2000, with Chapman already in the UAE.

‘I remember we really bonded because his first child was born about two weeks before my second,’ he said.

‘He left the UAE and went back to the UK with his family, but it didn’t work out for him and he took another private security gig in the UAE. He found his niche, as we all do.

‘I heard the news this morning, a friend told me what had happened. It was just such a shock. He was a great guy.’

The ex-Commando, who lives in the north west of England, added to the chorus of criticism at the IDF, having previously come under fire while working in Israel during the second intifada in the early 2000s.

He said: ‘I was doing private security work, accompanying a television crew, with our Land Rover clearly identified as media.

‘We had a six-round grouping, shots in the bonnet, both doors, the rear, a person basically having a bad day and taking it out on the media,’ he claimed.

Zomi working with fellow World Central Kitchen worker Chef Oli (right) handing out food

James Kirby was a 47-year-old who also worked in the charity's security team and was a military veteran

Mr Henderson was due to leave Gaza on Monday, the Times reported

In a statement to the BBC , Mr Kirby's family described him as a 'genuine gentleman'

Mr Kirby's cousin told Sky News: 'Not only James but the six other individuals are like heroes to us. They went out there selflessly to help some of the most desperate people in the world'

Jacob Flickinger was a 33-year-old dual citizen of the United States and Canada. He was reportedly the team lead

Jacob's dad John Flickinger described his late son 'a loving husband and new father,' a role that he said 'changed Jacob in so many ways' (pictured: Jacob with his partner Sandy and their one year old son)

Kirby with his friend Julie Marshall. The Times said he was believed to be a former member of Britain's special forces

Israel is expected to pay compensation to the families of the aid workers killed in the airstrike on a food convoy in Gaza, military sources have claimed.

The Israeli military killed seven staff, including three British veterans, of World Central Kitchen (WCK) on Monday when it bombed a clearly marked vehicle belonging to the food charity.

Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief Herzi Halevi on Tuesday called the killings a ‘grave mistake’, which he blamed on night-time ‘misidentification’, and launched an independent investigation into the attack.

The official report, which could be available in the coming days, is expected to conclude the deaths of the WCK workers was a ‘tragic accident’ and blame the attack on an ‘intelligence failure’, a military source told The Telegraph.

If the conclusion is as expected, Giora Eiland, a retired IDF major general and former head of Israel’s National Security Council, says the Israeli government will offer compensation to the victims’ families. It is unclear what the compensation package would entail.

The seven deaths have piled more pressure on Israel, with a United Nations official having suggested the killing of the WCK workers could be considered a war crime.

People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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Ms Frankcom was one of seven World Central Kitchen volunteers killed in a series of Israeli airstrikes on Monday (pictured, the wreckage of one of the three cars)

Horrific photographs showed how a huge hole had been blown in the roof of one car, with the vehicle's interior torn to shreds by the force of the blast

Heavily damaged vehicle of the officials working at the US-based international volunteer aid organisation World Central Kitchen (WCK)

Passports of the officials working at the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), who are killed after an Israeli attack on a vehicle belonging to WCK in Deir Al-Balah of Gaza on April 2, 2024

Israel maintains the strikes were accidental, with Israeli PM Netanyahu pledging that the ‘tragic case’ would be investigated ‘right to the end’. 

‘This happens in war,’ he said. ‘We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.’

Chief of staff of the Israeli military, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi added: ‘I want to be very clear – the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers.

‘It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,’ Halevi said. 

It is understood that the strike was carried out by drone via an operator with the 933 brigade that was based in Khan Yunis. 

The strike reportedly would have been signed off by three individuals, including an intelligence officer, senior commander and military legal adviser.

Israeli security sources told Haaretz newspaper that IDF drones had trailed the food convoy and the army had reason to believe a Hamas operative was travelling with the group.

Subsequent intelligence has since revealed that the terror suspect had stayed behind when the convoy left its warehouse in Deir Al-Balah, the insiders said on Tuesday.

‘The armed man did not leave the warehouse,’ the newspaper reported, citing defence sources. ‘The cars travelled along a route preapproved and coordinated with the IDF.’ 

An ambulance carrying the bodies of World Central Kitchen workers who were killed in the airstrike is pictured at the Gaza border crossing in Rafah, Egypt, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024

A World Central Kitchen worker holds the passport of deceased colleagues on April 3, 2024 as their bodies are moved from Al-Najjar Hospital to the Rafah crossing with neighboring Egypt to be later repatriated

Bodies of the foreign employees of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen are taken from Al-Najjar hospital and sent by ambulances to Egypt through the Rafah Border Crossing in Rafah, Gaza on April 3, 2024

Members of the public join a walking vigil through the streets for local aid worker James Henderson, organised by Palestine Solidarity Cornwall on April 3, 2024 in Falmouth, England

Demonstrators in Falmouth, England on Wednesday paid to the three British veterans working for the aid charity World Central Kitchen who were killed in the airstrike

Demonstrators gather around lit candles during an apparent vigil in Falmouth, England on Wednesday as they remember James Henderson, 33, from Falmouth, John Chapman, 57, from Poole and James Kirby

Locals in Falmouth, England join a walking vigil through the streets for local aid worker James Henderson on Wednesday

The Israeli military pledged an investigation by ‘an independent, professional and expert body’.

And Israel has long dismissed allegations it is hindering the urgent distribution of food as rights groups warn of the urgency of supplying Gaza’s desperate civilian population. 

But critics have slammed Israel’s military command for allowing such a string of attacks to occur – against a clearly marked aid convoy. 

UN chief Antonio Guterres labelled ‘unconscionable’ and ‘an inevitable result of the way the war is being conducted’.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Netanyahu that Britain was appalled by the deaths and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation, Sunak’s office said.

Britain also summoned the Israeli ambassador to London and has demanded ‘full accountability’ over the deaths, which foreign secretary David Cameron described as ‘completely unacceptable’.

US President Joe Biden said he was ‘outraged and heartbroken’ by the deaths and charged that Israel ‘has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians‘. 

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he expressed ‘anger and concern’ to Netanyahu in a separate call.

Poland said ‘it does not agree to the lack of compliance with international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers’, and demanded compensation for the families of the killed WCK staff.

Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, said today that both the deadly strike and the Israeli government’s reaction to the incident were straining ties between the two countries.

The WCK meanwhile called the strike a ‘targeted attack’.

‘This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,’ CEO Erin Gore said in a statement. 

The charity also said it was mourning the loss of its seven ‘heroes’ and ‘beautiful souls’.

After their deaths, the charity suspended operations and a ship that had carried food aid from Cyprus to Gaza turned back towards the Mediterranean island with around 240 tons of supplies that had not been unloaded.

Human Rights Watch said the attack ‘displays the characteristics of a precision airstrike’, adding that it gave greater urgency to an International Criminal Court investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, (pictured) was also killed in the drone strike on Monday

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese demanded 'full accountability' from Israel over the death of aid worker Lalzawmi 'Zomi' Frankcom, 43, (pictured) who was the leader of the relief team and killed in the convoy

Palestinian worker Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, (pictured) was also killed when missiles struck the convoy on Monday

A UN worker holds James Henderson's passport at the scene of the strike

Volunteers at international aid organization inspect the vehicles as vehicles of the officials working at the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), who are killed, are heavily damaged during an Israeli attack on a vehicle belonging to WCK in Deir Al-Balah of Gaza on April 2, 2024

Israeli troops, in a photo released by the Israeli army on April 1, 2024, are seen operating in the Gaza Strip amid the continuing battle with Hamas

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to a based on Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,975 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

The army said its forces had ‘killed and apprehended a number of terrorists’ in fighting near the Al-Amal Hospital in the southern city of Khan Yunis, where they had also located numerous weapons.

Hamas also seized around 250 hostages on October 7. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Talks for a ceasefire and hostage release deal have stalled, with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh accusing Israel of procrastinating.

The families of the captives have staged four straight nights of mass protests, joined by a resurgent anti-government movement.

Thousands gathered in front of parliament on Tuesday, with former prime minister Ehud Barak blaming Netanyahu for the October 7 ‘disaster’ and demanding new elections.

World Central Kitchen workers gather around the bodies of their colleagues after they were transferred to Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah

Lalzawmi 'Zomi' Frankcom (pictured), 44, from Melbourne, was killed along with three other international aid workers and a Palestinian driver, in Central Gaza, while working with the World Central Kitchen charity on Monday

The Polish man has also been named by authorities as Damian Soból (pictured), who worked for the charity bringing aid into Gaza

The UN Human Rights Council will on Friday consider a draft resolution calling for an arms embargo on Israel, citing the ‘plausible risk of genocide in Gaza’.

The draft ‘condemns the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects by Israel in populated areas in Gaza’ and of ‘the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare’.

There are 47 countries serving on the Human Rights Council – among them 18 states which brought forward the draft resolution. Twenty-four votes are needed for an outright majority, or possibly fewer if there are abstentions.

Israel has long accused the Human Rights Council of being biased against it.

Natasha Anderson

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