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UK Deputy PM backs Israel arms embargo, as protesters target Elbit

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has added his support to growing calls for an arms embargo on Israel, as the impact of the attack on Gaza continues to be felt around Westminster.

In a statement issued late Tuesday by the Liberal Democrats, the leadership of the government’s junior coalition partner urged a suspension of arms exports to Israel.

Affirming the concerns raised by Sayeeda Warsi, who resigned her position as Foreign Office minister Tuesday over Gaza policy, Nick Clegg said the Israeli military had “overstepped the mark” and cited the “outrageous spectacle” of UN schools “being hit by Israeli military action”.

Clegg revealed that he is “working with [Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills] Vince Cable” to suspend arms export licenses to Israel, “pending a wider review of whether they should be revoked more permanently in the long run”.

Both Clegg and Cable indicated that they expect an announcement regarding the suspension of export licenses to Israel in the near future.

Warsi’s resignation has thrown an uncomfortable spotlight on PM David Cameron’s support for Israel’s assault, and, according to The Guardian, “broke a dam of criticism of Israel in the Conservative party”, including London mayor Boris Johnson description of Israel’s actions as “disproportionate” and “ugly”.

A government spokesperson had earlier this week confirmed that “all export licenses to Israel” were under review, while the Scottish government has also called for “an immediate arms embargo to Israel“. Elsewhere in Europe, Spain has temporarily suspended arms exports, a decision that went into effect on July 31 and could be revisited in September.

Meanwhile, activists have shut down a factory near Lichfield which manufactures drone engines, and is a UK subsidiary of Israeli arms company Elbit. The action at UAV Engines Limited was continuing Tuesday morning, boosted by support from the likes of Amnesty International UK, whose UK arms programme campaign manager commented that “no UK-based company should currently be supplying the Israeli military with any arms or equipment”.

Amnesty UK is calling on the UK government to halt the supply of arms to Israel so as not to “facilitate war crimes“, along with other campaign groups such as War on Want. Amnesty International, meanwhile, has also urged a UN-imposed arms embargo.

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