(Bloomberg) -- The UK government is considering restricting some arms exports to Israel if it launches an offensive on the Palestinian city of Rafah or obstructs aid trucks from entering Gaza, people familiar with the matter said.

Further escalation of Israel’s military action in Gaza without more effort to protect civilians could put it in breach of international humanitarian law, depending on how it conducts the operation, UK officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity about internal assessments. 

Legal advice to ministers that governs the granting of export licenses could change in such a scenario, potentially impacting the sale of some weapons and technologies to the country, the people said. The Foreign Office declined to comment.

While Britain isn’t a major supplier of arms to Israel, the potential action — which the UK has discussed with allies — suggests western nations are ratcheting up the pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration to take greater care in its crackdown on Hamas. Months of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip have left 29,000 Palestinians dead, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. 

The Israeli action was triggered by Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 more were abducted. The UK, US and European Union all designate Hamas a terrorist organization.

The UK, along with the US and other allies, have called on Israel not to proceed with a planned ground offensive in Rafah unless civilians have been safely moved out. More than 1 million refugees have taken refuge in the city in southern Gaza, which has become the strip’s last remaining safe haven. Israel has promised to allow civilians out, though has yet to set out how this will happen.

Read More: Why Rafah Is Raising Fears in Israel-Hamas War: QuickTake

Israel will go ahead with the operation unless more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas are released by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan next month, Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet said on Sunday. Israel argues it can’t successfully eradicate Hamas in Gaza without proceeding.

In a letter to UK parliamentarians published Tuesday, Foreign Secretary David Cameron expressed “deep concern about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah,” adding that “we do not underestimate the devastating humanitarian impacts that a full ground offensive, if enacted, would have.”

The latest UK government review of export licenses took place in December, finding that British exports to Israel have not been used to commit a serious violation of international humanitarian law, Cameron said in the letter. That meant the UK had decided “not to suspend or revoke extant licenses,” he wrote, adding that all licenses were “kept under careful and continuous review.”

If Israel makes it hard for aid convoys to travel into Gaza, that could also bring about a change in the legal advice on whether Israel was abiding by international law, people familiar with the matter said. The UK and its allies want Israel to let 500 trucks carrying essential supplies into Gaza each day, while at present, only significantly smaller numbers are getting through. There is a real risk of famine in Gaza unless aid increases, the people said.

British defense exports to Israel totaled £42 million ($53 million) in 2022, according to a statement by Defense Secretary Grant Shapps last year, citing the latest available figures. Some 114 licenses for defense exports from Britain to Israel have been granted, he said. The UK supplies Israel with components for combat aircraft, missiles and tanks, as well as small arms and ammunition, Human Rights Watch said last year.

During a previous conflict in 2014, the UK — of which Cameron was prime minister at the time — said it would suspend some arms exports to Israel if hostilities continued in Gaza. Ultimately, exports were not restricted during that conflict.

--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson.

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