British defense contractors have sold a record number of arms to Israel, a newly released report by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has revealed.
Last year U.K. firms sold over £230 million in arms to Israel, up 256 percent from the over £90 million sold in 2016, according to the report. That year's sales were also a significant increase on 2015's total of over £20 million. The sale of arms included sniper rifles, assault rifles, missiles and small arms ammunition.
The news also comes at a time when Prince William who will be representing the U.K. government on an official visit to Israel next month.
Human groups and campaigners have often criticised the U.K.'s arms sales to countries who have a proven low human rights records, like Israel. Human rights advocates have criticized the official visit in the light of Israel's grave human rights violations, as it shot dead over 100 unarmed protesters along the Gaza border wall earlier this month.
Palestinians had organized an action called Great March of Return in which they protested at the border every Friday since March 30, which marks Land Day for Palestinians, until May 15 which Marks Nakba, or Catastrophe, the anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel that saw the displacement of more than 700,000 people from their homes in historic Palestine in 1948.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "The shootings we have seen over recent weeks have been an awful reminder of the appalling collective punishment and oppression that has been inflicted on the people of Gaza. By the government’s own admission, U.K. arms have been used time and again against Palestinians.
"Yet the arms sales have continued unabated. There must be a full investigation into if any U.K. arms have been used in the atrocities we have seen over recent months."
The U.K.-based Amnesty International warned that such arms sales mean that Britain and other countries that sell weapons to Israel are implicit in its actions against Palestinians.
"After the appallingly excessive response of the Israeli security forces at the Gaza border, tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories are likely to be close to boiling point when Prince William makes this historic visit," said Amnesty International's Kerry Moscogiuri in a statement. "We are complicit in the slaughter - and must stop these sales immediately."
Also a government review also found that the U.K. had issued 12 licenses for arms which were likely to have been used in the 2014 war. In 2010 then foreign secretary David Miliband said the Israeli equipment used in an attack on Gaza "almost certainly" had British-supplied components, the Guardian has reported.
But while arms sales reach record numbers to Israel, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May called Israel's use of live fire against Palestinian protesters "deeply troubling." Earlier this month, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn also called for a review of the U.K.'s arms sales to Israel.
Last month there were also protests against weapons sales to Saudi Arabia amid Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's official visit to the United Kingdom.