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Fury over £200m missile deal with Israel

By Tom Newton Dunn,
Defence Correspondent
The Mirror
15 July 2002

MINISTERS faced a new outcry last night over Britain's arms deals with Israel.

The Government is set to buy £200million worth of Israeli Spike missiles - the type which have been used against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Angry MPs claimed the deal, following last week's uproar over British arms sales to Israel, was unethical. Brian Iddon, secretary of the Commons all-party Palestine group, said last night: "Any purchase of arms from Israel is highly insensitive at this time."

Defence officials want the Government to sign up for 5,000 Spike anti-tank missiles made by Israeli company Rafael. Using an advanced "fire and forget" guidance system, the weapon is accurate from up to three miles.

Spikes can be fired from hand-held launchers or helicopters and have been used in recent months to kill terrorist leaders.

Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "We shouldn't be buying these missiles. There should be a boycott on Israel when it is using arms on such a scale in occupied territories."

The Norwegian government, which has bought Spike missiles in the past, has banned further arms purchases from Israel.

The Spike is being lined up to replace the ageing Milan anti-tank missile system in the British Army's infantry regiments, Royal Marines and Britain's Special Forces.

Army experts are evaluating its performance in tests on Salisbury Plain. The only alternative being considered is the costlier US-made Javelin system. But officers believe the Lockheed Martin product is less effective.

The Government is already under fire for allowing British-made parts to be fitted to Israel's US F16 fighters. The deal for the new missile system will be signed in the autumn.

The Defence Ministry insisted last night that political factors were being taken into account. A spokesman said: "The MoD has a responsibility to deliver effective equipment to the armed forces which represents value for money to the taxpayer."

Israeli warplanes yesterday launched a rocket attack on a multi-storey housing block in the Gaza Strip, injuring 10 people.

They were reported to be targeting the home of Youssef Abed al-Wahab, a senior member of the Hamas terrorist group, but he escaped.