Anger over weapons sales as UK government figures show more than 100 licenses issued for exports to Israel since Oct. 7 Hamas attack

A UNRWA personnel checks a burnt area at a school housing displaced Palestinians that was hit during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas, in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 11 June 2024
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Anger over weapons sales as UK government figures show more than 100 licenses issued for exports to Israel since Oct. 7 Hamas attack

  • Data release follows calls by campaigners for greater transparency on arms exports
  • Critics accuse UK of ignoring its international legal obligations over military shipments

LONDON: The UK has approved more than 100 export licenses for the sale of weapons, military equipment, and other items to Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants that killed around 1,200 people, government figures show.

Just over a third of the licenses, 37 of the 108 issued, were described as military, while 63 were declared as non-military, but included telecommunication and software items for use by the Israel Defense Forces.

A further eight open licenses were granted, statistics released by the Department for Business and Trade show.

The data has been released after calls by politicians and campaigners for the British government to be transparent about arms exports to Israel amid what the department called “exceptional parliamentary interest.”

Almost 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and at least 83,530 injured in the Israeli military offensive in Gaza launched in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack.

Emily Apple, of the Campaign against Arms Trade, slammed the figures for only showing the number of licenses, not the value or the detailed categories of what was exported — data that is normally contained in quarterly arms export licenses statistics, the Guardian reported.

“This data release was supposed to address the political and public interest in arms sales to Israel; the figures released do not do this as they do not give any details of the equipment exported or its value,” she said.

“If and when we have a new Labour government (after a July 4 general election), it is vital that they not only impose an arms embargo but also address the lack of transparency in our export licensing system,” she added.

Approved UK arms exports licenses to Israel were valued at £42 million ($53.4 million) in 2022, with the 2023 figure due to be released later this week.

Campaigners have pressed the British government to end its arms sales to Israel, claiming the exports break international humanitarian law.

Yasmine Ahmed, director at UK Human Rights Watch, said: “The right way to approach Israel’s commitment to comply with international humanitarian law is not by reference to Israel’s subjective interpretation of its compliance with IHL, but by an objective interpretation of what IHL actually requires.”

Her concerns were echoed by Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Amnesty International UK, who said: “We’re supporting this important case because of the UK’s refusal to abide by its international legal obligations and suspend arms transfers to Israel.”

Earlier this month it was announced that British government ministers found no reason to end weapons exports to Israel after reviewing the latest three-month period of the Gaza war up to April.

“As required by the UK’s robust arms export control regime, the foreign secretary has now reviewed the most recent advice about the situation in Gaza and Israel’s conduct of their military campaign,” a statement from the UK Foreign Office said.

“The business secretary has therefore decided our position on export licenses remains unchanged. This is consistent with the advice ministers have received. As ever, we will keep the position under review.

“The UK operates a robust and thorough assessment of arms export license applications against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria. These criteria include that we will not grant an export license if there is a clear risk that the items might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”


Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Updated 22 July 2024
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Many Democrats back Harris in 2024 race, but Pelosi, others silent

Many Democrats on Sunday quickly backed Vice President Kamala Harris to run as the party’s presidential nominee against Donald Trump after incumbent President Joe Biden’s abrupt departure from the race, but some powerful party members, including former House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, stayed quiet.

After weeks of in-party fighting between Democrats on whether Biden, 81, should stay in the race, a rush of support coalescing behind Harris is crucial just over 100 days before November’s election.

However, there are plenty of doubts inside the Democratic Party about whether Harris can beat Trump in November.

Biden himself endorsed Harris on Sunday, not in his initial letter stepping down, but in a separate statement. He was quickly followed by the powerful Congressional Black Caucus, several key donors, lawmakers including US Senator Patty Murray, and super PACs including Priorities USA and Unite the Country.

“Today I want to offer my full support and endorsement for Kamala to be the nominee of our party this year,” Biden said on social media platform X. “Democrats — it’s time to come together and beat Trump. Let’s do this.”

Dmitri Mehlhorn, an adviser to Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn founder and a major Democratic donor, called Harris “the American dream personified,” noting she was the daughter of immigrants. “She is also toughness personified, rising from my home town of Oakland California to become the top prosecutor of the state. With Scranton Joe stepping back, I cannot wait to help elect President Harris.”

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both Democrats, also endorsed Harris in a statement.

Still, others including Pelosi and former President Barack Obama thanked Biden for his patriotism but did not yet throw their support behind Harris or any other candidate.

“We will be navigating uncharted waters in the days ahead,” Obama said in a statement. “But I have extraordinary confidence that the leaders of our party will be able to create a process from which an outstanding nominee emerges.”

US Senator Peter Welch, the first Democratic senator to call on Biden to drop his reelection run, called for an open process to nominate Harris.

The Democrats should have “an open process so that whoever our nominee is, including Kamala, has the strength of having a process that shows the consensus position of the party,” he said. “The debate in the Democratic Party is who can carry on the legacy of President Biden and defeat Trump.”

One Democratic donor told Reuters they would support a ticket for Kamala Harris as the presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro as her vice president, as a way to gain votes in Pennsylvania. It is not clear yet whom Harris would pick as her vice president if she were to become the nominee.

Though Shapiro said on Sunday he was grateful for Biden’s leadership, he did not endorse Harris.


World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

Updated 22 July 2024
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World leaders pay tribute to Biden as he ends re-election bid

PARIS: World leaders lined up to pay tribute to US President Joe Biden Sunday after he announced he was dropping out of the US presidential race, even as Republicans called on him to step down from the job before the end of his term.

Biden announced his decision in a letter released on Sunday, a stunning move that upends the 2024 race for the White House. He endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party’s new nominee.

One senior Republican argued that if he was not fit to run for re-election then he was not fit to serve out his term. But world leaders lined up to pay tribute to the Biden’s achievements as US president.

“You’ve taken many difficult decisions thanks to which Poland, America and the world are safer, and democracy stronger,” said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

“I know you were driven by the same motivations when announcing your final decision. Probably the most difficult one in your life,” added Tusk, who served as the European Council president between 2014 and 2019.

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer said he respected Biden’s decision, adding: “I look forward to us working together during the remainder of his presidency.

“I know that, as he has done throughout his remarkable career, he will have made his decision based on what he believes is best for the American people,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also paid tribute to Biden’s legacy.

“My friend @POTUS Joe Biden has achieved a lot: for his country, for Europe, for the world,” he wrote on X. “His decision not to run again deserves respect.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog thanked him for his decades of support.

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to @POTUS Joe Biden for his friendship and steadfast support for the Israeli people over his decades long career,” Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial, wrote on social media.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also thanked Biden for his years of service.

“I’ve known President Biden for years,” he wrote on X.

“He’s a great man, and everything he does is guided by his love for his country. As President, he is a partner to Canadians — and a true friend. To President Biden and the First Lady: thank you.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wrote on X: “Thank you for your leadership and ongoing service President Biden.”

“The Australia-US Alliance has never been stronger with our shared commitment to democratic values, international security, economic prosperity and climate action for this and future generations.”

Former president Barack Obama, with whom Biden served two terms as vice president, praised his record in office as president.

“Internationally, he restored America’s standing in the world, revitalized NATO, and mobilized the world to stand up against Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he said.

While he had every right to run for reelection, Biden’s decision to drop out of the race was testament to his “love of country,” Obama added.

The Kremlin said it was monitoring developments.

“The election is still four months away. And it’s a long time, during which a lot can change. We need to pay attention, follow what will happen and go about our business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Life.ru news outlet.

Even as world leaders paid tribute to his performance on the world stage, leading Republicans were insisting he was unfit to remain president.

“If Joe Biden is not fit to run for president, he is not fit to serve as president,” said a statement from House Speaker Mike Johnson, the top Republican in Congress.

“He must resign the office immediately. November 5 cannot arrive soon enough,” he added.

Former president Donald Trump, who is running for the presidency again, wrote on his Truth Social network: “Crooked Joe Biden was not fit to run for President, and is certainly not fit to serve.”


’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest

Updated 22 July 2024
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’Give me his body’: Relatives grieve victims of Bangladesh unrest

  • Faith’s customs dictate that anyone who dies must be given a prompt burial

DHAKA: Grief-stricken widow Fatema Begum wept when hospital staff said her husband had been killed in the unrest that has roiled Bangladesh for nearly a week. She wept again when they refused to hand over his body.
Islam is the majority religion in the south Asian country, where 155 people have died since Tuesday in clashes between student protesters and police over contentious civil service hiring rules.
The faith’s customs dictate that anyone who dies must be given a prompt burial.
But staff at one of the biggest hospitals in the capital Dhaka has a longstanding requirement to only release bodies to relatives with police permission, and that is no longer easily forthcoming.
“Where is my husband?” Begum, 40, shouted at staffers outside the hospital’s morgue, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Give me his body.”
Begum’s husband Kamal Mia, 45, eked out a tough living as a pedal-rickshaw driver, transporting people around the sprawling megacity of 20 million people for the equivalent of a dollar per fare.
The family says he was not taking part in any of the clashes that have wrought widespread destruction around the city, but was killed by stray police fire.
Begum and her two daughters were told to go to a nearby police station for clearance. When her eldest daughter Anika went there, it was barricaded shut.
Officers had closed the station after arson attacks on dozens of police posts by protesters.
Anika was then sent to another police station farther away — a 10-kilometer (six-mile) round trip from the hospital — despite a nationwide government-imposed curfew.
Police there refused to give the necessary permission for the release of the body.
“My father was not a protester,” Anika said. “Why did my father have to die?“


Mia was among more than 60 people whose deaths in the unrest were recorded at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the country’s largest health care facility in the heart of the capital.
The relentless influx of patients since the start of the police crackdown on protesters has stretched the hospital to its limits.
Ambulances, private cars and rickshaws carrying the wounded were at one point arriving an average of once per minute, an AFP correspondent at the scene saw.
The entry gate of the emergency department, guarded by paramilitary Ansar forces, was blood-stained.
As soon as casualties arrive, staff rush with stretchers and trolleys. Some wounded people were given first aid for a rubber bullet, while others who were hit by injuries had to wait — sometimes for hours — for the doctors on duty.
Some are brought in already dead. Loved ones burst into tears as soon as a doctor or nurse makes it official.
A group of volunteers stood by the emergency department using loudhailers to call for blood donors after the hospital’s stocks were depleted.
Among the dozens of grieving relatives at the hospital, the steps the police took to quell the student demonstrations have prompted untempered fury against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.
“Hasina’s police have killed my son to keep her in power,” the father of a 30-year-old mobile phone shop owner shot dead in the capital, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.
“God will punish her for this unjust torture.”


Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east

Updated 21 July 2024
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Civilians killed and wounded as Russia and Ukraine trade attacks, Russia claims gains in the east

  • Overnight into Sunday, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 35 of the 39 drones launched by Russia

KYIV: Russia and Ukraine exchanged drone, missile and shelling attacks on Sunday. At least two people were killed in Ukrainian strikes on the partly Russian-occupied Donetsk region, Russian state media said, while Ukrainian officials said Russian strikes wounded at least five people.
Along the front line in the east, Russia said it had taken control of two villages, one in the Kharkiv region and one in the Luhansk region.
Ukrainian shelling of Russia-held areas of the Donetsk region killed two people in the village of Horlivka, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.
Three people were wounded by Russian drone strikes in southern Ukraine’s partly occupied Kherson region, local officials said Sunday morning. In the country’s northeast, officials in the Kharkiv region said two people were wounded when a village was hit by Russian shells.
Overnight into Sunday, Ukraine’s air defenses intercepted 35 of the 39 drones launched by Russia, according to air force commander Mykola Oleschuk. In addition, Russia launched three ballistic missiles and two guided air missiles, which did not reach their targets, he said.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday that its troops had taken control of two villages: Pishchane Nizhne in the Kharkiv region and Andriivka, sometimes referred to as Rozivka, in the Luhansk region. Kyiv did not immediately comment.
Officials in the northern Sumy region said Sunday that Russia launched a missile strike on “critical infrastructure facilities” in the city of Shostka. City mayor Mykola Noha specified that “two heating facilities” had been destroyed and called on residents to use electricity sparingly and stock up on water.
With few changes reported along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line, where a recent push by the Kremlin’s forces in eastern and northeastern Ukraine has made only incremental gains, both sides in the war have taken aim at infrastructure targets — seeking to curb each other’s ability to fight in a war that is now in its third year.
Russian air defense systems overnight destroyed eight drones over the country’s Belgorod region and over the Black Sea, the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
Russian air defense also shot down two long-range ballistic ATACMS missiles in the sky over the Kherson region heading for Russia-annexed Crimea, Russia-installed Kherson governor Vladimir Saldo said.
Nine people were wounded over the previous day in shelling in the town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Sunday morning.


What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

Updated 21 July 2024
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What happens next? Joe Biden wants to pass the baton to Kamala Harris, here’s how that might work

  • Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22 - now an open contest

ATLANTA: With President Joe Biden ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats now must navigate a shift that is unprecedented this late in an election year.

Democrats are set to hold their convention in Chicago on Aug. 19-22. What was supposed to be a coronation for Biden now becomes an open contest in which nearly 4,700 delegates will be responsible for picking a new standard-bearer to challenge Republican Donald Trump in the fall.

The path ahead is neither easy nor obvious, even with Biden endorsing Harris. There are unanswered questions about logistics, money and political fallout.
Can Biden redirect his delegates?
Biden won every state primary and caucus earlier this year and only lost the territory of American Samoa. At least 3,896 delegates had been pledged to support him.
Current party rules do not permit Biden to pass them to another candidate. Politically, though, his endorsement is likely to be influential.
What could happen at the convention?
With Biden stepping aside, Democrats technically start with an open convention. But realistically, his endorsement pushes Democrats into murky territory.
The immediate burden is on Harris to solidify support across almost 4,000 delegates from the states, territories and District of Columbia, plus more than 700 so-called superdelegates that include party leaders, certain elected officials and former presidents and vice presidents.
Will anyone challenge Harris?
Even before Biden announced his decision, Democrats floated California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as potential contenders in addition to Harris. Yet some Democrats argued publicly, and many privately, that it would be a no-brainer to elevate the first woman, first Black woman and first person of south Asian descent to hold national office.
Given how important Black voters -– and Black women especially -– were to Biden’s nomination and his choice of Harris as running mate, it would be risky, to say the least, for Democrats to pass her over for a white nominee. Democrats already faced historical headwinds before Biden’s withdrawal. Newsom and Whitmer, both of whom are white, and any other Democrat would also have to weigh the short-term and long-term benefits of challenging Harris now versus preserving goodwill for a future presidential primary.
Yet, fair or not, Harris also has not been viewed as an especially beloved or empowered vice president. The best scenario for her and Democrats is to quickly shore up support and project a united front. Democrats could even go forward with their plans for an early virtual vote – a move they’d planned to make sure Biden was selected ahead of Ohio’s general election ballot deadline.
What happens to Biden’s campaign money?
Biden’s campaign recently reported $91 million cash on hand. Allied Democratic campaign committees brought the total at his disposal to more than $240 million. Campaign finance experts agree generally that Harris could control all those funds since the campaign was set up in her name as well as Biden’s. If Democrats do nominate someone other than Harris, party accounts could still benefit the nominee, but the Biden-Harris account would have more restrictions. For example, legal experts say it could become an independent expenditure political action committee but not simply transfer its balance to a different nominee.
How will a vice presidential nomination work?
The vice presidential nomination is always a separate convention vote. In routine years, the convention ratifies the choice of the nominee. If Harris closes ranks quickly, she could name her choice and have the delegates ratify it. In an extended fight, though, the vice presidency could become part of horse-trading — again, a return to conventions of an earlier era.
Can Republicans keep Harris off state ballots?
Any curveball during a US presidential campaign is certain to produce a flurry of state and federal lawsuits in this hyper-partisan era, and some conservatives have threatened just that.
State laws, though, typically do not prescribe how parties choose their nominees for president. And some GOP figures – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey – have worked already this year to ensure their party did not deny Democrats’ routine ballot access.