Chloe Smith
MP for Norwich North

Israel and Gaza Information 17th April 2024

Author: Chloe Smith, Updated: 22 February 2024 09:31

I am keeping updated a short blog for constituents who are interested in the attack on Israel on 7th October, and subsequent events. This points to the most up to date information from Parliament or Government so that constituents can get it at source, faster. This also briefly covers my own stance, and I have deliberately put this in one article for everyone rather than replying separately to people who have various flavours of view themselves, many quite long-standing. I understand many people’s deep concern and distress and I share this profound care for suffering and human life.    

  • For the Prime Minister's latest statements, please see here. This has covered the overall situation; the UK humanitarian contribution; the safety of British Jews and community relations in the UK; and the UK’s intensive diplomatic efforts to prevent regional escalation, back Israel’s security and support long-term solutions to the crisis in the Middle East.       

  • For a further statement given to Parliament by the then Foreign Secretary please see here. This specifically covered the hospital explosion of Tuesday 17th October.     

  • For the most recent statement given by the Development Minister, please see here.     

  • For an update given by the Defence Secretary, please see here and for questions taken by the Foreign Office ministers, please see here  

  • For the Foreign Secretary's most recent article on a sustainable ceasefire, please see here. 

  • For Lord Cameron’s objectives in the Middle East and Turkey, 24th January, please see here, and his further efforts to support regional stability here. 

  • For travel advice and consular information for British citizens in respect of Israel and the occupied territories please see here.     

I am grateful to constituents who have shared their opinions and concerns with me.       

I support an immediate, humanitarian pause as the best way to stop the fighting, get aid in and hostages outThis must be sustainable and I would hope it could become permanentThere must be a credible pathway to a two-state solution which delivers peace, security and justice for both Israelis and PalestiniansToo many innocent civilians have died. 

I believe there are three vital steps to put the region on to a better path. First, we must uphold regional security against hostile actors, including in the Red sea, and we must ensure Israel’s security. That is non-negotiable and a fundamental condition for peace in the region.

Secondly, we must invest more deeply in the two-state solution. That is what we have been doing over the past six months, including working closely with the Palestinian Authority, so that when the time comes, they can provide more effective governance for Gaza and the west bank.

Thirdly, the conflict in Gaza must end. Hamas, who are backed by Iran, started this war. They wanted not just to kill and murder, but to destabilise the whole region. This weekend, they rejected the latest hostage deal, which offered a road to a ceasefire. It is Israel’s right, and indeed its duty, to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend its security. 

I want to be clear: nothing that has happened over the past 48 hours affects our position on Gaza. The appalling toll on civilians continues to grow—the hunger, the desperation and the loss of life on an awful scale. The whole country wants to see an end to the bloodshed, and to see more humanitarian support going in.

The UK Government is focused on getting life-saving aid to those in need in Gaza; supporting the safe return of hostages and British nationals; backing Israel’s right to self-defence; and preventing a dangerous regional escalation  The Government has already doubled our aid commitment to Palestinians this year and will work closely with the UN to ensure it reaches those who need it.  I support the Government in wanting the flow of aid into Gaza to increase. 

Alleviating the suffering is the Government's foremost priorityBeyond the humanitarian concerns that I know are top of many constituents’ minds, I now add some further points that have come up in constituents’ emails.     

Hamas has committed the worst pogrom, or massacre, against Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas is a terrorist organisation and is outlawed as such in the UK. Hamas is a genocidal, homophobic, misogynistic terror organisation committed through its founding charter to the destruction of Israel and Jews. The Iran-backed group fundamentally opposes peace and harms the Palestinian people by deliberately installing military infrastructure within and near civilian buildings, using its civilians as human shields.   

Hamas committed slaughter, abuse and gender-based violence on 7th October.   Hundreds were taken hostage, including British citizens, and Hamas killed British citizens in this attackI therefore utterly condemn Hamas and strongly support the victims of their atrocities.     

Israel has not only the right – but a fundamental responsibility – to protect its citizens and put an end to the grave threat posed by Hamas. My view is that there is no moral equivalence between the democratic State of Israel and Hamas.     

That said, retaliation from Israel must be conducted within international law, and I agree with the UK Government position that we will support Israel as a friend and fellow democracy, and we will continue to call on Israel to discriminate sufficiently between terrorists and civilians, ensuring its campaign targets Hamas leaders and operatives and taking every precaution to avoid harming civilians.  Too many Palestinian civilian lives have been lost.     

Some constituents want me to have voted for an immediate ceasefireI have not, because I agree with Lord Cameron's argument:  "Let us imagine that we did press Israel to cease all military operations forthwith. Would Hamas stop firing rockets? Would it release the hostages? Would its murderous ideology change? An unsustainable ceasefire, quickly collapsing into further violence, would only make it harder to build the confidence needed for peace."  

There is much work to do by the international community to help stop this conflict and ensure that all civilian life is protected as much as possible.       

Overall I support the UK's position that our country will continue to work with all partners in the region to secure the release of all hostages, restore security and reach a long-term two-state solution which enables both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace.  

Some constituents may also be concerned about the situation in the Red Sea, where the UK has taken part in air strikes against Houthi military targets in YemenThe Prime Minister explains here.   

Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, dangerous, and profoundly destabilising. Attacks on vessels, including commercial vessels, using unmanned aerial vehicles, small boats, and missiles, including the historic first use of anti-ship ballistic missiles, are a direct threat to the freedom of navigation that serves as the bedrock of global trade in one of the world’s most critical waterways. These attacks threaten innocent lives from all over the world and constitute a significant international problem that demands collective action. On 9 January 2024, the Houthis mounted an attack against British and American warships. They fired on British ships, representing one of the biggest attacks on the Royal Navy for decadesSadly, the Houthis also push a narrative that this is about Israel and GazaThis should not be believed; they target ships from around the world.  An update on this was provided to the House of Commons on 5th February.