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LONDON: Conservative peer Nicholas Soames, Winston Churchill’s grandson, has backed calls for the UK to halt arms sales to Israel following an airstrike that killed three British aid workers in Gaza, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

Soames said the gravity of the situation meant the UK had to send a strong message about Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territory.

It comes as hundreds of senior lawyers and judges, including three former Supreme Court justices, wrote a letter which accused the British government of violating international law by continuing to arm Israel.

The 17-page letter addressed to the government on Wednesday said: “While we welcome the increasingly robust calls by your government for a cessation of fighting and the unobstructed entry to Gaza of humanitarian assistance, simultaneously to continue (to take two striking examples) the sale of weapons and weapons systems to Israel and to maintain threats of suspending UK aid to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) falls significantly short of your government’s obligations under international law.”

Speaking about the cessation of arms sales to Israel, Soames said: “It’s probably time that that happened now, yes, I think if we’re determined to show that we are not prepared to countenance these ongoing disasters.”

He added: “Israel has every right to go after Hamas, there’s no shadow of doubt about that.”

The UK’s supply to Israel’s weapons “would be tiny and it’s probably parts more than anything else,” Soames added, but halting exports would send a message.

“I say this with real sadness because, I mean, first of all, what happened was an absolute tragedy, and secondly, it was absolutely inexcusable,” Soames said of the Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers on Monday.

“This is not a fog of war issue with these (aid workers) … The whole thing had been deconflicted, organized, everything, and something has gone very, very wrong, and the Israelis need to really get a grip of all this.

“And secondly, these people were doing the most wonderful work to provide aid to starving Palestinians … I think it is the message that matters.”

Conservative peer Hugo Swire and three Tory MPs, David Jones, Paul Bristow, and Flick Drummond, have also voiced their support for a halt to arms sales.

Meanwhile, former Conservative minister Alan Duncan is under investigation by the party after claiming that pro-Israel “extremists” within the party should be expelled for refusing to advocate for international law.

Duncan, speaking on radio station LBC, accused former cabinet minister Eric Pickles and another Tory peer, Stuart Polak, of “exercising the interests of another country” by lobbying for Israel through the Conservative Friends of Israel group.

Duncan said that any support for Israel’s conduct in Gaza was “morally unacceptable,” adding that what Israel “had been doing for years has been wrong because the Israeli defense does not follow international law.”

He continued: “It has been backing and supporting illegal settlers in the West Bank, who steal Palestinian land, and it is that land theft, that annexation of Palestine, which is the origin of the problem, which has given rise to the Hamas atrocity and the battles we’re seeing.”

Some people in UK politics “refuse to condemn settlements and therefore are not supporters of international law,” Duncan added.

He said: “I think the time has come to flush out those extremists in our own parliamentary politics, and around it.”

According to Duncan, the CFI was “doing the bidding of Netanyahu, bypassing all proper processes of government to exercise undue influence at the top of government.”

He added: “So what you have is a lot of people now sitting around Rishi Sunak who are giving him appalling advice. Let’s start with the head of CFI, or had been for many years, Lord Polak. In my view, I think he should be removed from the Lords because he is exercising the interests of another country, not that of the Parliament in which he sits, joined by Lord Pickles. They’re the sort of Laurel and Hardy who should be pushed out together.”

A Conservative spokesperson told The Guardian that, as a party member, Duncan’s comments on LBC would be investigated.

Duncan later told Times Radio that other Tory MPs and ministers, such as Michael Gove, Oliver Dowden, Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick, and Priti Patel, were “extremists” because they did not condemn illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

He said: “For Suella Braverman today to say that there is not a humanitarian problem in Gaza and there’s plenty of food and she’s seen the photographs, frankly it is so disgusting, so repulsive, so repellent that I think she should immediately have the whip withdrawn.”

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