THE UK will not share evidence of war crimes in Gaza if it is collected during reconnaissance flights over Palestine, The National has learned.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons on Tuesday that the UK was flying manned but unarmed planes over Palestine in a bid to identify British hostages held by Hamas.

He was under pressure from MPs to confirm whether evidence – if found – of war crimes being committed by either side in Palestine would be shared with the International Criminal Court.

In a statement released at the weekend, the department said: “Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.”

The Ministry of Defence has now said the flights were “purely for intelligence gathering” related to returning UK hostages held by Hamas and ruled out it being shared with The Hague.

An official also told The National the information would not be shared with the Israeli government for its military operations in Gaza, which has now escalated to a full invasion of the strip.

The brutal conflict has so far claimed the lives of 15,900 Palestinians and 1200 Israelis since Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7.  

The National: United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres addresses the situation in Israel at United Nations headquarters on Monday (Craig Ruttle/AP/PA)

UN chief Antonio Guterres (above) has condemned “clear violations of international law” in Gaza in response to Israel’s bombardment of the strip.

The UK Government has previously said it considers Israel’s actions to be within the bounds of international law, which prohibits the collective punishment of civilians.

The US has appeared to put increasing pressure on Israel after the short truce with Hamas ended on Saturday

The Times of Israel reported earlier in the day that an anonymous Israel Defence Forces official had confirmed that roughly two Palestinian civilians have been killed for every dead Hamas fighter in the Gaza Strip.

It comes amid reports just 5000 Hamas fighters had been killed by Israel’s ferocious response to the October 7 attacks, which saw more than 240 hostages taken into Gaza as well as 1200 Israelis killed.

Amnesty International has also accused Israel of firing white phosphorous into neighbouring Lebanon – the base of Islamist militant group Hezbollah – which would be a contravention of an international ban on the use of chemical weapons.

READ MORE: Israel drops leaflets in southern Gaza urging residents to leave

The human rights charity has previously demanded an investigation into an alleged “indiscriminate” attack on Dhayra, near the Israeli border, which was said to have injured at least nine civilians in early October.

Hamas’s documented tactic of using human shields, by basing its operations near or in civilian buildings that are supposed to be off-limits, is also considered a war crime under international law.

The UK and Palestine are state parties to the International Criminal Court, which sits in The Hague and was established in 2002, while Israel is not.

Israel not being a state party to the International Criminal Court would not prevent it from escaping its jurisdiction if the court launched proceedings against it.

At the end of October, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC called on all state parties "to share evidence regarding any allegations or any crimes [in the conflict] so that we can properly investigate them and prosecute them as appropriate". 

'Israel commits its atrocities in darkness' 

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (below) said it was “shameful” that information would not be passed to the court.

He said: “The UK Government has a responsibility to defend the equal application of international law.

The National: Jeremy Corbyn

“It is shameful, therefore, that the UK Government refuses to support the International Criminal Court in its efforts to bring about justice for war crimes committed by all parties.

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“Blackouts in Gaza may be temporary, but impunity is permanent — and our government continues to give the Israeli army the political cover it needs to commit its atrocities in darkness.”

SNP defence spokesperson Martin Docherty-Hughes added: "There should be no question of the UK sharing the information it receives from these flights with the International Criminal Court.

"Given the UN Secretary General has reiterated the  ‘clear violations of international humanitarian law’ evidenced by Israel's actions in Gaza, you would think that there would be a clear responsibility from this Government to make sure its own actions are above reproach.

"The UK Government refusing to openly support the International Criminal Court investigation certainly makes them look foolish.

"It also begs the question, what alternative will the UK Government offer in the furtherance of the rule of law and in the search of justice for innocent victims in both Palestine and Israel, other than the investigations of an independent court?”

'All lawbreakers must be held accountable' 

LibDem defence spokesperson Richard Foord (below) said the revelation was “troubling” and criticised Shapps for slippery answers in the Commons chamber earlier on Tuesday.

He said: “The Government is not being straight with the public about what information is being shared with whom.

The National: Richard Foord MP

“The fact that any evidence of breaches of International Humanitarian Law recorded by UK personnel will not be passed to the International Criminal Court is troubling.

“All those responsible for breaches of humanitarian law, from any side of this conflict, must be held to account.”

The Defence Secretary repeatedly told MPs information would be shared with “partners” when questioned about whether intelligence would be handed over to the court.

But he said he could see "no circumstances" in which the Government would deploy British troops to Gaza.