Ministry of Defence takes extraordinary step of censoring all requests for information by MPs about RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus, which Declassified has reported is facilitating arms supplies to Israel’s war on Gaza.
- MP whose questions were blocked tells Declassified: “This is totally unacceptable in a democracy”
- RAF sent A400M military transport aircraft from Cyprus base to Tel Aviv this morning
- Britain’s Cyprus base has secretly become international military hub supporting Israel’s bombing of Gaza
The British government has blocked MPs asking any questions about activity at RAF Akrotiri, its vast air base on Cyprus, Declassified can reveal.
Blocking all parliamentary questions from MPs is a highly unusual move.
Government departments routinely refuse to answer specific questions about military operations for reasons of “national security”, but blocking all questions by elected parliamentarians goes far beyond the usual level of Whitehall secrecy.
It comes after Declassified revealed the RAF has made over 30 military transport flights to Tel Aviv since Israel began bombing Gaza. The Ministry of Defence refused to provide us any detail of the cargo or personnel on the flights.
Just this morning an A400M Atlas military transport aircraft operated by the RAF landed in Tel Aviv from Akrotiri. The aircraft can carry 116 soldiers, a Chinook helicopter or a payload of 37 tonnes.
RAF Akrotiri sits 180 miles from Tel Aviv with a flight time of 40 minutes.
Declassified has also reported that the US is moving arms to Israel using RAF Akrotiri, which has become an international military hub supporting Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. Half of US planes flying from British Cyprus are said to be carrying weapons for Israel.
“We need openness and transparency by our government. This is not in our name.”
Kenny MacAskill, Alba MP for East Lothian, told Declassified he put down a number of parliamentary questions concerning what military support the UK is providing to Israel and the role of RAF Akrotiri in the supply of military equipment.
“Your question has been queried because it is subject to a block by Government,” he was told in an email. “The Department [Ministry of Defence] has stated that it will not comment on operational matters at this base.”
MacAskill, a former Scottish justice secretary, told Declassified: “This is totally unacceptable in a democracy. Genocide is being perpetrated in Gaza and we have a right to know what our Government is doing about it.”
MacAskill said he had never experienced such a ‘block’ on asking parliamentary questions before.
He added: “The failure to call for an immediate ceasefire is bad enough but any complicity raises issues of participating in war crimes. We need openness and transparency by our government. This is not in our name.”
The UK military-run Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Committee – better known as the ‘D-Notice’ committee – has also sent out an ‘advisory’ to all British media to suppress reporting on UK special forces’ activity related to Gaza. The SAS was previously reported to have deployed a force to Cyprus.
No British mainstream media outlets have reported on Declassified’s recent findings about RAF Akrotiri and Gaza despite the President of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides having to defend his government from accusations of complicity in Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
In answer to questions about the use of RAF Akrotiri by Cypriot journalists over the weekend, Christodoulides said: “There is no such information, our country cannot be used as a base for war operations”.
However, RAF Akrotiri has long been the staging post for British bombing campaigns across the Middle East. Declassified also recently revealed that 129 US airmen are also permanently deployed at the base.
The censorship of information requests from MPs makes it all but certain that RAF Akrotiri is being used for covert military purposes that the government does not want the public to know about.
It is likely the UK is sending material military aid to Israel during its bombing of Gaza, which has now killed over 12,000 Palestinians, although it previously told Declassified it was not providing “lethal aid”.
Matt Kennard is chief investigator at Declassified UK. He was a fellow and then director at the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London. Follow him on Twitter @kennardmatt
Mark Curtis is the editor of Declassified UK, and the author of five books and many articles on UK foreign policy.