British military aircraft have been providing surveillance support to Israel and delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.
On 7 October 2023, a fresh armed conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.
This escalation followed a multi-pronged invasion of southern Israel by the militants, prompting a forceful response from Israel. In retaliation, the Israeli military conducted an extensive aerial bombardment campaign on Gazan targets, followed by a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza.
The conflict has resulted in considerable loss of life: more than 1,200 Israelis, predominantly civilians, and over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed.
Recent parliamentary disclosures have highlighted the United Kingdom’s significant involvement in the conflict, underscoring its dual role in providing surveillance support to Israel and delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.
John Healey MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, enquired about the extent of British military support in the Eastern Mediterranean.
James Heappey, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, outlined the UK’s pivotal role, stating, “A total of 12 aircraft have deployed to the eastern Mediterranean. These flights have provided surveillance support to Israel, including preventing the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups, and to wider regional security. They have also delivered humanitarian aid into Egypt.”
Healey also asked about surveillance operations since October 2023. Heappey, emphasising the sensitivity of such missions, responded, “The UK has deployed P8 and other surveillance assets to improve our situational awareness in the region and provide assurance to our partners.” However, he noted, “For operational security reasons, I cannot comment on the specifics of this activity.”
Addressing the UK’s humanitarian efforts, Healey sought details on RAF flights carrying aid to Gaza. Heappey said, “Between 7 October and 8 November, there have been three RAF flights that have carried humanitarian aid destined for Gaza, totalling 51 tonnes.” This statement highlights the UK’s significant role in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The presence of RFA Argus and RFA Lyme Bay in the Eastern Mediterranean was also confirmed. Heappey elucidated their role, stating, “RFA LYME BAY and RFA ARGUS deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean on 8 November, establishing a UK presence in the region. This allows us to respond to the humanitarian crisis as needed.”