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The ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza – an update

By 30 January 2024No Comments

Following my continued efforts to call on Government to work with the international community to help bring about a permanent and sustainable ceasefire, I wanted to provide an update on the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza, as well as the recent actions I have taken to raise the concerns of constituents and call for peace in the Middle East.

Christmas unfortunately brought no let-up to the intolerable suffering in Gaza, no end to the cruelty for hostages. Millions of people continue to be displaced, desperate and hungry.

Israel continues to use devastating tactics that have seen far too many innocent civilians killed. With unacceptable blocks on essential aid, nowhere safe for civilians, a growing humanitarian catastrophe, and now – warnings of a deadly famine.

The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) interim ruling under the Genocide Convention on the situation in Gaza is a profoundly serious moment.

The ICJ’s interim ruling does not give a verdict on this case, but it sets out urgent provisional measures that must be followed. Israel must now comply with the orders in this ruling in full. I have pressed the UK Government to provide assurances that they will be using all diplomatic avenues available to them to ensure Israel complies with the measures.

The measures align closely with my longstanding calls for the protection of civilians, urgent humanitarian relief in Gaza as raised in the House of Commons and an end to extremist rhetoric.

Over the last few months, I have been taking these matters very seriously and raising concerns with Ministers and lobbying Government over the issues raised, working closely with Medical Aid for Palestinians following my visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in September. I have also met with the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, as a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Palestine.

The allegations that a number of UNRWA employees were involved in the 7 October attacks are shocking and must be thoroughly investigated.

Aid, however, must continue to reach every part of Gaza. The UNWRA as an organisation is a key provider of this life saving assistance, something I witnessed firsthand during my visit to the West Bank.

I have called on the Government through written parliamentary questions to provide assurances that following the decision to suspend future funding to UNWRA, that their operations can continue and ordinary Gazans can still access vital aid. We must continue to do everything humanly possible to relieve the suffering of the people of Gaza.

More broadly, I have again urged the Foreign Secretary to do all he can to achieve a sustained and permanent ceasefire as the only means by which civilians can be protected, prevent displacement, ensure humanitarian access and the release of the remaining hostages.

You can view my written question on this matter and the Government’s response here.

I continue to share constituents concern regarding UK arms sales to Israel and desires to ensure the UK is not exporting offensive weapons which could be used in this operation.

I have again pressed the Ministry of Defence and Department for Business for Trade to provide an update on their assessment of Israel’s compliance with the UK’s licensing criteria, and called on the Government to again confirm when offensive weapons were last exported to Israel.

As I wrote to the Foreign Secretary in December, it remains clear that open-ended military action without a clear and desired political outcome is ultimately futile. A political agreement, however unlikely it seems today, is the only way to ultimately resolve this conflict.

Britain should focus our resources where we can make the most practical difference to the lives of those affected, particularly through using our expertise to accelerate humanitarian assistance. But the UK also has the history and the networks to play a major role in broader negotiations.

Gaza must be rebuilt, alongside a reformed and strengthened Palestinian Authority, while the two-state solution must urgently move from rhetoric to reality.

Following recent comments by the Israeli Government I want to make clear of my view that Palestinian statehood is not in the gift of its neighbour. It is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people. It is also the only way to a secure settlement and a secure future for both Israel and Palestine.

That is why Labour has been championing support for a new international contact group, to replace the now defunct Quartet, to coordinate with our Western and Arab partners over Gaza. First to stabilize the situation, then to lead on reconstruction, and make a renewed push for a sovereign Palestine, alongside a secure Israel.

I can assure all constituents that I am continuing to monitor the situation and will raise these matters in Parliament, to bring a renewed push from all parties to find a way to peace.

You can view my extensive written questions on this and other related matters when they are published here.