We are all shocked by what has happened in Israel and Gaza over the past ten days. The murderous actions of Hamas have led to the devastating loss of life of men, women, children and babies. This massacre of innocent people is a strike at the very idea of Israel as a safe homeland for the Jewish people. I think all our thoughts are with all those families who have lost a loved one and those who remain missing.
Just as we stand with the Jewish community, we also stand with British Muslim communities. As the Prime Minister made clear in his statement to the House of Commons on Monday, “we mourn the loss of every innocent life, of the civilians of every faith and every nationality who have been killed.”
I know that many of my constituents are feeling real shock and horror at what they are seeing on the news and hearing from friends and family who live in the region. Many are understandably fearful of Israel’s response. While Israel has a right to defend itself, to go after Hamas and take back the hostages, it is clear that this must be done in line with international humanitarian law. I know that the Prime Minister will say this repeatedly during his visit to the country over the next few days. We must do what we can to prevent further escalation. The protection of civilian life must come first, and it is that respect for human life that sets us apart from the horrific violence of terrorists.
At the same time, we must continue our long-standing support to the innocent Palestinian people. They are victims of Hamas too, so often put in harm’s way as they are used as human shields. The loss of more than 2,600 Palestinian lives, including many children, is a grave tragedy. It is critical that our humanitarian support is able to reach civilians in Gaza. Both Israel and Egypt must cooperate to make sure that the aid can go where it is needed. I have no doubt that the additional £10 million of support announced by the Prime Minister will get to where it is needed.
The actions of Hamas have shattered the good progress made in recent years towards peace and stability in the region. However we must use all the tools of British diplomacy to help achieve security for Israelis and Palestinians. I have long-supported a two-state solution. I know that the Prime Minister shares my view and have no doubt that he will be doing what he can to emphasise this during his visit to the region this week.
I can assure you that I will continue to follow developments closely. If you are concerned about anyone who may remain in the region and who might require assistance from the Foreign Office, please do let me know.