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 Secretary, please see 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 am very glad to see the agreement reached by Israel and Hamas for a coordinated release of hostages and pause in fighting. As the new Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said, this agreement is a crucial step towards providing relief to the families of the hostages and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The UK government urges all parties to ensure the agreement is delivered in full, as we want to see all hostages released immediately and families affected by the horrors of the October 7th terror attack reunited.
This pause provides an important opportunity to ensure much greater volumes of food, fuel and other life-saving aid can reach Gaza on a sustained basis. 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.
The 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. Our efforts have contributed to some delivery of aid via the Rafah crossing and to over 150 British nationals being able to leave Gaza safely.
Alleviating the suffering is the Government's foremost priority. They welcome any initiatives that would allow more aid to be delivered and hostages to be released, and have therefore consistently called for humanitarian pauses. Four-hour pauses in northern Gaza are an important first step, but longer pauses that cover wider areas will be needed. The Government is discussing with the UN and other partners how best to achieve this. We must avoid measures that serve only to benefit Hamas and allow them to entrench their position. At the same time, we need all parties to the conflict to abide by any pause, allowing sufficient time and security for civilians to move and for aid to be delivered.
Beyond 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.
We have seen some of the most horrific ISIS-style war crimes – indiscriminate murder and torture of civilians including babies, the elderly and disabled people. Some have been burned alive and there have been multiple reports of beheading. Hundreds have been taken hostage, including British citizens, and Hamas have killed British citizens in this attack.
I 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 take every precaution to avoid harming civilians.
In the House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary said that "Unlike Hamas, the Israelis, including the President, have made it clear that their armed forces will operate in accordance with international law. He went on to say "all reasonable people wanted the situation to be resolved quickly but that Israel was forced to engage because of the mass murder in their country." He added: "calls for ceasefires are all well and good but I have seen nothing which leads me to believe Hamas would respect calls for a ceasefire". I agree with this, and therefore I did not support votes for a ceasefire recently in the Commons.
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 political solution which enables both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace.