UK REFUSES TO DISCLOSE WHAT ISRAELI MILITARY PLANES LANDING IN BRITAIN HAVE ONBOARD

The government is withholding all information about the nine Israeli military jets that have landed in the UK since the bombing of Gaza began, raising suspicions about further British complicity in war crimes.

MATT KENNARD
6 MARCH 2024 – https://www.declassifieduk.org/

An Israeli Air Force-operated Boeing 707-366C departs from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, on 7 December 2023. (Photo: Creative Commons)

An Israeli Air Force-operated Boeing 707-366C departs from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, on 7 December 2023. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The UK government admitted last month that nine Israeli military aircraft had landed and taken off in Britain since 7 October. 

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had initially refused to give any information on the number of flights, but Declassified independently found six Israeli Air Force (IAF) operated planes landing in Britain.

Soon after the Declassified revelations, the MoD reversed course and admitted the nine flights, in response to a parliamentary question from Kenny MacAskill, the Alba MP for East Lothian. 

But MacAskill recently requested further information about those flights.

When he asked what the IAF planes were carrying, when they arrived and departed, and which British airports they landed at, the MoD refused to answer.

Defence minister James Heappey told him: “It is standard practice for the Ministry of Defence to routinely authorise requests for limited numbers of allies and partners to overfly the UK and use UK air bases.”

But he added: “For operational security reasons and as a matter of policy, the MoD does not offer comment or information relating to foreign nations’ military aircraft movements or operations.”

‘No comment’

MacAskill also requested information on the next destination of the nine IAF planes that took off from Britain. The MoD again refused to answer. 

Heappey said: “It is our longstanding Defence policy to not comment on third country flight information.” 

He added: “The Diplomatic Flight Clearance policy is a robust practice and the basis on which a foreign partner may or may not be granted permission to utilise UK air bases is dependent on the nature and purpose of their activity, which is assessed in line with Defence internal policy.”

This position, which has also been applied to US Air Force flights related to Gaza using British territory, means UK bases operate as effective ‘black sites’ for foreign militaries. 

There are no transparency mechanisms to get information about their activities on British soil. 

However, Declassified independently discovered Israeli military aircraft have landed in Glasgow, Birmingham as well as RAF bases in Suffolk and Oxfordshire since 7 October. 

‘Complicity’

The latest information about Israeli military assets using Britain during its campaign in Gaza may further implicate UK ministers in crimes against humanity.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently said it was “plausible” Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and is investigating the case. Meanwhile, Nicaragua has written to the British government warning it that it is considering refering the country to the ICJ for complicity in genocide.

The MoD also recently admitted it is currently training a number of Israeli military personnel in Britain, but again refused to provide details.

MacAskill, a former Scottish justice secretary, told Declassified: “The UK has moved from inactivity on Israeli genocide to complicity in it. From allowing the US Air Force to supply weapons to Israel using its bases to now allowing their war planes to come and go as they wish.”

He added: “What were the Israeli military jets doing in the UK, where were they going? Did they take special forces or were troops heading to Israel? 

“All of these are legitimate questions at the best of times but now we are in the worst of times with the horror in Gaza. We need answers to these questions. It’s not just Israel but Britain and the US that need to be held to account as a matter of urgency.”

Matt Kennard is chief investigator at Declassified UK. He was a fellow and then director at the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London. Follow him on Twitter @kennardmatt