Vince Cable
Business secretary Vince Cable announced decision to suspend 12 export licences in event 'significant hostilities'Reuters

The UK government has announced it will suspend 12 licences for exports to Israel if the current ceasefire in Gaza does not hold.

A review into the arms exports currently been shipped to Israel by the UK found a "vast majority" are for items that cannot be used by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) as part of the ongoing conflict in Gaza with Hamas.

However, 12 licences were identified as having the potential to be used as equipment by the IDF in Gaza. The government has now announced if the current ceasefire in Gaza is broken, these licences will be suspended as it would not be able to clarify "if the export licence criteria are being met".

Under international law, arms export licences cannot be granted if the weapons are used for "mass humanitarian suffering".

Business secretary Vince Cable said: "We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution.

"However the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export licence criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty, we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licences in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.

"No new licences of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defence Forces during the review period and as a precautionary measure, this approach will continue until hostilities cease."

The announcement came after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Britain should revoke all sales of military equipment to Israel if the conflict in Gaza continues.

"We must respect the strict criteria laid down in law," he told LBC Radio. "We must look at what's happened in Gaza to see if those criteria were breached.

"If it's shown those criteria were breached, then never mind suspending those licences, they would have to be revoked."

The Deputy Prime Minister added he and Prime Minister David Cameron "clearly" have different views on the government's stance on Israel.

The Lib Dems admitted it has taken a "significant amount of time and effort" for the coalition to agree to suspend export licences in Israel if the fighting continues.

A spokesperson added: "It is no secret that there has been a difference of opinion in the coalition government on this issue.

"Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have been very clear for some time both privately and publicly that they wanted to see arms export licences to Israel suspended because of the situation in Gaza."