Israel & Gaza

The events we have seen unfolding in Israel are truly horrific. Having read many sad and shocking stories on the crisis, I join the UK Government in utterly condemning the barbaric terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas, and in standing with Israel as it seeks to defend itself in the face of such atrocities. My thoughts are with those affected, especially the families of those civilians who have been murdered.

The UK recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and supports a lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike. However, Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their aspirations; it offers nothing for them other than more terror and bloodshed. I support Israel’s right to go after Hamas, take back the hostages and strengthen its security for the long term. The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy, and the above must be done in line with international humanitarian law. Every effort must be made to minimise the impact on ordinary Palestinians. While acknowledging that Hamas has enmeshed itself behind the civilian population of Gaza, the UK Prime Minister has called on the Israeli Government to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.

The Government’s response is now focused on three key areas. Firstly, the UK is now working to prevent escalation and further threats against Israel. To this end, ministers have increased our military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, deploying a Royal Navy task group and bolstering our forces in Cyprus. Secondly, the UK is increasing humanitarian support. We have historically been a significant provider of aid to the Palestinian people, but in light of the situation in Gaza, we have gone even further. Since 7 October, the UK has made available £30 million of additional aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, more than doubling our existing aid commitment for this year (£27 million). I have also been assured that the UK will consider further support depending on changing humanitarian needs on the ground.

I note your calls for the UK to push for a ceasefire. The Government 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, the reality is that Hamas have no interest in a ceasefire. They have no interest in resolution and have never attempted to engage in a two-state solution. Instead, they have made every attempt to collapse the Oslo process.

I also want to assure you that the UK is calling for immediate unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza so that essential aid can reach civilian populations, including food, water, fuel, and medical supplies. The UK is also calling on all parties to protect border crossings to support safe humanitarian access and mitigate harm to civilians. The Foreign Secretary continues to engage regularly and closely with his Israeli counterparts, including in relation to ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid to people in Gaza. He most recently spoke to the Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen on 23 October. The UK will remain committed to mitigating the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and calling for International Humanitarian Law to be respected, while standing alongside the people of Israel against the terrorist group Hamas.

This is a fast-moving situation, and I will be sure to follow events closely.