The events we have seen unfolding in the Middle East are truly horrific. I join the UK Government in utterly condemning the barbaric terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas, against Israel and I support Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of such atrocities, as guaranteed by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
However, the UK recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and supports a lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The UK recognises that Hamas does not represent the best interests of the Palestinian people. It offers nothing for them other than more terror and more bloodshed. I therefore support Israel’s right to pursue Hamas, take back the hostages, deter further incursions, and strengthen its security for the long term.
Both sides should recognise that the loss of innocent life is a tragedy and whatever action they take must be done in accordance with international and humanitarian law. Whilst recognising the horrific attack by Hamas on Israel, it would appear that the action taken by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza goes beyond what is acceptable even in this conflict. Cutting off water, electricity, food and medicines to Gaza, whilst at the same time severely restricting any exit and carrying out sustained bombing in Gaza is inhumane. I therefore welcome the diplomatic efforts by the UK Prime Minister particularly speaking with the Egyptian president to underscore the importance of opening the Rafah Crossing to allow for humanitarian access to provide a route for British and other nationals to leave Gaza. UK FCDO officials have been closely engaged with UN efforts and secure humanitarian access and scale up humanitarian aid.
The UK has long been a significant provider of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, and I welcome that on 23 October the Government announced an additional £20 million of humanitarian aid. This additional funding more than doubles the UK’s previous support for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and means that the UK continues to be at the forefront of the global effort to help the Palestinian people.
Regarding calls for a ceasefire, the UK is working via all diplomatic channels, bilaterally and collectively in the region, to ensure that this conflict, which has cost so many lives already, can be brought to a halt. However, this is complicated because it will only allow time for Hamas to be resupplied with arms to launch further counter attacks against Israel.
There is also a possibility that this conflict could widen especially if Iran became involved and by encouraging Hezbollah to attack Israel from Lebanon. So, this conflict is complicated and continually evolving but I will continue to press the British Government to exert maximum diplomatic pressure on both sides to minimise the loss of civilian life, restore the basic services to Gaza and allow convoys of aid to enter Gaza. And it appears that food is now beginning to run out. The current situation is completely unacceptable.
This is a fast-moving crisis, and I will monitor developments closely.