UK talks over arms export licences to Israel

Orla Guerin speaks to Gaza residents who say they now have nowhere to go

UK ministers are discussing whether to suspend arms export licences to Israel if the truce in Gaza ends.

Israel has offered to extend a three-day ceasefire in Gaza which began on Tuesday after nearly a month of conflict, Israeli officials say.

But there has so far been no agreement from the militant Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, as indirect talks continue in Cairo.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg says he wants licences stopped if violence returns.

A Downing Street spokesman said discussions on the issue within government were still ongoing.

Announcement imminent?

Prime Minister David Cameron is in close contact with the talks even though he is on holiday in Portugal, a Downing Street source said.

The priority was to do everything possible to ensure the ceasefire holds, the source added.

The UK government is already reviewing its export licences to Israel and no new licences have been issued for use by the Israeli military since the recent Israeli operation into Gaza.

Conservative peer Baroness Warsi criticised the policy when she dramatically stepped down as a Foreign Office minister earlier this week.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he hoped the coalition would agree a "tougher approach" and make an announcement shortly.

"I think it's crystal clear that it would be unacceptable to the British people and wholly wrong for us to do anything other than to immediately suspend any existing licences if that ceasefire were to come to an end and violence were to break out again..." he told LBC radio.

"If this ceasefire, this truce, ends and violence breaks out again, then clearly we should be suspending those licences."

Trust needed

Mr Clegg added: "In the face of the massive loss of civilian life - whilst of course condemning unconditionally, the indiscriminate use of rockets by Hamas to terrorise Israeli citizens... I just don't think we can be anything other than very clear and very tough with the Israeli authorities that what we think their doing clearly appears to be disproportionate and not in their long term interests."

US President Barack Obama has said a more durable truce requires risks being taken by leaders on both sides.

He said trust needs to rebuilt, which was difficult after a time of violence.

"Long term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world," said the US president, speaking in Washington.

More than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis, mainly soldiers, have died in the conflict.

A Thai national in Israel was also killed.

Gaza's health ministry listed 1,867 people as killed. The UN says more than 1,300 were civilians, and more than 400 were children.

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