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Campaigners slam BAE's ‘essential’ weekly flights to Saudi Arabian air base

BRITISH arms giant BAE has continued supplying military equipment to Saudi Arabia throughout the Covid-19 crisis, sparking fury from campaigners today. 

Weekly flights from a BAE Systems factory in Warton, where Typhoon jets are made, to a military base in Saudi Arabia, have continued despite the global pandemic.

The Gulf kingdom is using its fleet of Typhoons to bomb Yemen. 

On Monday, Junior Defence Minister James Heappey told Parliament that the trips had been designated as essential “logistics support” to the Saudi army.

He also admitted that the flights were using an RAF base in Cyprus to refuel en route. 

The minister was responding to a question from Labour MP Sam Tarry, who had pressed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about the purpose of the flights. 

Investigative website Declassified previously revealed that the flights carry spare parts from Warton to the Saudi military’s main operating base, from where it launches its air strikes on Yemen.

A Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states announced a ceasefire in April, but campaigners say that the bombing has continued, with three civilians injured by an air strike as recently as May 2, according to the Yemen Data Project. 

“UK-made fighter jets have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

“The war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and, especially at this time, further military support for Saudi forces can only make it even worse.

“Despite the terrible humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of Covid-19, the war is still raging. There must be a meaningful ceasefire from all sides.

“The suffering of Yemeni people will be made far worse by the air strikes that Saudi fighter jets are being used for.

“We are in unprecedented times and this should not be happening.

“Fighter-jet maintenance is not essential work, whether it is for the UK or any of the human rights-abusing regimes and dictatorships that BAE sells its arms to.”

Since 2015, Britain has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, CAAT said. 

In 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government had acted unlawfully when it authorised the supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia without assessing whether they would be used in Yemen.

However, this has not stopped the sale of weapons under previously granted licences.

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