War on Gaza

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what assessment he has made of Israel’s compliance with the summary order regarding Gaza issued by the International Court of Justice on 26 January, and what assessment he has made of the implications for the United Kingdom’s obligations, particularly with regard to arms exports.

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
(Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton) (Con)

We respect the ICJ’s role and independence; it is up to the court to monitor Israel’s compliance. We have noted our concerns previously about this case, which we do not think is helpful in the goal of achieving a sustainable ceasefire. While there has been some progress in some areas of humanitarian relief, Israel must do more to make good its promises, and I am pressing them on this, directly.

I regularly review advice about the situation in Gaza. Our position on export licences remains unchanged but, of course, we keep this under review.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

I thank the Minister for his Answer but of course, events have moved on since my Question was laid. The ICC prosecutor has made applications for five arrest warrants, alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity by senior Hamas leaders, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel’s Minister of Defense. The prosecutor was advised to do so unanimously by an independent panel of experts—our own noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, among them—which has set out why it thinks there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Surely it now obvious that the UK should immediately at least suspend arms exports licences to Israel, given the clear risk that continuing them would put the UK in breach of international law. Surely the Minister will confirm here that the UK accepts the jurisdiction of the court in this case, under the Rome statute that the UK helped to write and, of course, agreed to.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

What I would say to the noble Baroness is that the last time I was asked to make a political declaration outside our normal process of reviewing arms export licences, and to simply say that we would not sell any more arms to Israel, just a few days later Iran attacked Israel with a hail of over 140 cruise missiles. That position of acting outside our normal processes would have been completely wrong.

Let me answer very directly on the ICC’s announcement yesterday. I do not believe for one moment that seeking these warrants will help get the hostages out, help get aid in, or help deliver a sustainable ceasefire. As we have said from the outset, because Israel is not a signatory to the Rome statute, and because Palestine is not yet recognised as a state, we do not think that the court has jurisdiction in this area.

I would go beyond that and say that, frankly, this is mistaken in terms of position, timing and effect. To draw a moral equivalence between the Hamas leadership and the democratically elected leader of Israel is just plain wrong. It is not just Britain saying that; countries all over Europe and the world are saying that.

On timing, I point out to your Lordships’ House that the ICC was about to embark on a visit to Israel, which some of us had helped to arrange, and at the last minute decided to cancel that visit and simply go ahead with its announcement. It is not normally for the ICC to think about the effect, but as it clearly thought about the timing, maybe it should also think about the effect. As I have said, it will not help get the hostages out, and it probably makes change in Israel less likely.

Lord Robathan

I am very pleased with what my noble friend has just said. Does he also agree that if we and the rest of the West were to suspend arms sales, it would allow Hamas to regroup and return to the destructive and ghastly behaviour we witnessed on 7 October?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

I thank my noble friend for that question. Britain and America are obviously in completely different situations in terms of arms exports to Israel. Our exports are less than 1% of the total, so not a meaningful amount, whereas the United States is a far bigger provider. As I said, I think acting outside our proper processes and guidelines—we have a process of going through Israel’s commitment, capability and compliance with the rules laid out in our export criteria—would not be the right thing to, for the reasons I have given.

Lord Purvis of Tweed

Does the Foreign Secretary recall that in the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, during which there were just over 2,000 Palestinian casualties, he agreed with us on these Benches? As Prime Minister, he decided to pause military equipment licences to Israel on the basis of a disproportionate response by the Israeli military. That was the normal procedure, which he has referred to. Do we take it now that his view is that the current Israeli military response is proportionate?

Will the Foreign Secretary reassure me that, notwithstanding any of his opinions about the ICC, we will honour every obligation that the United Kingdom has signed up to in the Rome statute? These are treaty obligations when it comes to those who would be arraigned by the ICC.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

There is a bit of a difference between 2014 and now.

A noble Lord


Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

I will tell you why. Today is day 227 of the hostages still being in captivity, including British citizens. All of this relates to what happened on 7 October. There was no “7 October” in 2014, so we are in a different situation. Of course we respect the independence of the ICC, but just as we respect its independence, it should respect the independence of politicians in not suddenly losing their voice and all their opinions about these things. I have a very clear view about what has happened, and I have been happy to share it with your Lordships’ House.

Lord Collins of Highbury

I welcome the fact that the noble Lord is supporting the independence of the ICC, which is vital, but I hope he can truly find his voice. The UK supported UN Security Council Resolution 2417, which states that

“unlawful denial of humanitarian access”

and the act of “wilfully impeding relief supply” should be condemned. The noble Lord said on the BBC that

“Israel has not had a clean bill of health”

on allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Does he accept that Israel is in breach of that resolution, and if he does, does he not think that is a breach of international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

The noble Lord is right: I absolutely did say, and I repeat, that we have far from given Israel a clean bill of health on this issue. Not enough has been done to get aid in. We have had some recent promises, which are encouraging, about 500 trucks a day, about the opening of Ashdod port, and about the new pier adjacent to the beach in Gaza. Some of those promises are being fulfilled: Ashdod is open, the pier is working, and aid is being delivered, including British aid. But some of the promises are not being kept, and no one has been tougher on the Israelis than me in direct call after call and message after message about having to meet their obligations.

We have not given them a clean bill of health, but there is a world of difference between that and issuing arrest warrants at the same time as you are doing so for Hamas, and drawing this moral equivalence. It is not just the UK that takes this view. The Germans have said that simultaneous applications for arrest warrants gives the false impression of an equation. The Americans have called it outrageous. The Italians have called it totally unacceptable. The Austrians have said:

“The fact however that the leader of the terrorist organisation Hamas whose declared goal is the extinction of the State of Israel is being mentioned at the same time as the democratically elected representatives of that very State is non comprehensible”.

The Czechs have said that it is appalling and completely unacceptable. I do not want to get too political in your Lordships’ House, but the odd man out, in many ways, is the party opposite, which seems to be saying that it supports the ICC in every way.

Lord Collins of Highbury

Answer my question.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

I have answered your question.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth

While fully supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and fully supporting its desire to degrade Hamas’ military capacity, would the Foreign Secretary not agree that there is a legitimate worry about the use from the very beginning of the campaign of these 2,000-pound bombs, which, in a very densely populated area, are so difficult to use in a way that is both discriminate and proportionate?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

I agree that, while Israel has the right to defend itself, to try to deal with Hamas and to prevent 7 October happening again, it is important, as we have said throughout, that Israel complies with international humanitarian law as it does so.

Lord Swire

Does my noble friend the Foreign Secretary share my concern that the continuing withholding of the now $430 million under the Israel-Norway Accord, which is largely from Palestinian tax revenues, fatally undermines the authority of the Palestinian National Authority? What more can he do to ensure that money gets to them, and quickly?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton

My noble friend is absolutely right. One of the most important things we can do in trying to bring this conflict to a conclusion is to work on the political measures that are going to be necessary to deal with these problems. One of them is to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which needs the money that Israel is holding back from it. We have pressed the Israelis about that again and again. I would still say to the Israelis that you cannot fight something with nothing. You may not think the Palestinian Authority is ideal; you may think that it fails in many respects; but you need to find a partner that is not Hamas that you can work with in Gaza on the West Bank, and that partner should be the new technocratic government run by the Palestinian Authority.

For the full debate please go to https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2024-05-20a.645.0&s=Palestine#g648.0

Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa) 4:03, 20 May 2024

With permission, I would like to make a statement on Israel and Gaza.

Over seven months since the horrors of 7 October, there is no end to the current conflict in sight. This Government want to bring the conflict to a sustainable end as soon as possible, but as so often with conflicts of this nature, the question is not about our desire for peace, but rather about the best means of achieving it. We continue to believe that the fastest way to end the conflict is to secure a deal that gets the hostages out and allows for a pause in the fighting in Gaza. We would then have to work with our international partners to turn that pause into a sustainable permanent ceasefire.

Building momentum towards a lasting peace will require a number of elements, including removing Hamas’s capacity to launch attacks against Israel. It was a deal of that kind that secured a pause in the fighting before Christmas—the only such pause since Hamas’s horrific attack. It was that approach that the United Nations Security Council endorsed just last month, following some effective British diplomacy.

A deal with Hamas for a pause in the fighting would involve exchanging hundreds of Palestinian prisoners charged with serious acts of terrorism in return for the hostages’ release. I do not underestimate how difficult that must be for the Israeli Government, but it is the best way forward that we see right now.

We continue to work closely with the United States and partners in the region to support such a deal. We do not believe that the International Criminal Court prosecutor seeking warrants will help in that regard. As we have said from the outset, we do not think that the ICC has jurisdiction in this case.

A deal as I have described offers the best prospects of reuniting more hostages with their families; the anguish for them is unbearable. I am sure that the whole House joins me in holding the family of Nadav Popplewell in our thoughts at this deeply distressing time. We are still working intensively to establish the facts after the awful video that his Hamas kidnappers released last week. The Foreign Secretary met the family last week to hear more about their ordeal at first hand. Likewise, we send our condolences to those families whose loved ones the Israeli authorities stated last week had died.

At the same time, the toll on civilians in Gaza continues to rise. Images from the strip give us some sense of what they endure: civilians piling belongings on to a cart led by a donkey, or seeking to scrape together a meal in a makeshift shelter. We have seen appalling attacks on aid convoys and UN offices by Israeli extremists, and the tragic deaths of UN and other humanitarian personnel in Gaza.

We keep in close contact with Sigrid Kaag, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator, and we condemn all attacks on aid workers and support the United Nations’ call for an independent investigation. The Government of Israel have previously set out publicly their commitment to increase the flow of aid into Gaza significantly, but we need to see far more. The Prime Minister impressed the urgency of that on 30 April. In the past 10 days, the Foreign Secretary has spoken to Israeli Ministers Ron Dermer and Israel Katz. He has called on them to implement in full Israel’s aid commitments. We want to see: humanitarian aid allowed to enter through all relevant crossing points, including in Rafah; critically needed goods flowing in, particularly fuel and medical supplies; effective deconfliction processes to ensure that aid can be distributed safely and effectively; critical infrastructure restored and protected; evacuations for all those eligible; concrete action to protect civilians and minimise casualties; and, as Israeli Minister Benny Gantz said over the weekend, more planning for reconstruction and a return to Palestinian civilian governance of Gaza once the fighting has ceased.

We remain absolutely committed to getting aid into Gaza to alleviate the suffering, and we are working with a wide variety of other Governments and aid agencies to deliver aid by land, sea and air. I am delighted to confirm to the House that we have now successfully delivered British aid on to Gaza’s shore using the Cyprus maritime corridor, which we and our partners—notably, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus—made operational just last week. We have committed almost £10 million in funding. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay is acting as a logistics hub for the operation.

We have now delivered more than 8,000 shelter coverage kits alongside aid from the US and UAE, with more aid to follow in the coming weeks including hygiene kits and forklift trucks. Work to develop other effective partnerships for the delivery of aid continues. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon is in Qatar today, discussing a health partnership for Palestinians so that a British medical training agency can support doctors and health practitioners treating Palestinian patients.

We know that much, much more aid is required, but that delivery by land remains the quickest and most effective option, so we continue to work closely with Oman to maximise the aid delivered via the Jordan land corridor. I pay tribute to all those aid workers, military personnel, diplomats and medical professionals who are involved in Britain’s efforts to save lives and alleviate the suffering of civilians in Gaza. I confirm to the House that, last week, intense efforts by the Foreign Office led to the departure from Gaza of three British aid workers who were at risk from an outbreak of fighting.

As the fighting continues, we estimate that around 800,000 Palestinian civilians have fled from where they were seeking shelter in Rafah to other parts of the southern strip. The extent of this displacement is why we have been clear that we would not support a major Israeli military operation in Rafah, unless there was a very clear plan for how to protect people and save lives. We have not seen that plan. We and 13 of our partners, including France, Germany, Italy and Australia, set out our concerns in a detailed letter to the Israeli Government.

After more than seven months of fighting, it is becoming difficult to imagine the realisation of a lasting peace, but Britain continues to try to build momentum towards that goal. That will require not only the release of all the hostages and an end to the current fighting, but the removal of Hamas’s capacity to launch attacks against Israel; Hamas no longer being in charge in Gaza; the formation of a new Palestinian Government for the west bank and Gaza; and a political horizon for the Palestinians, providing a credible and irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution. That is what we continue to strive towards: peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. I commend the statement to the House.

  David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 4:11, 20 May 2024

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. The conflict has now gone on for 226 days. That is 226 days of destruction; 226 days of Israeli hostages still in chains; 226 days that have led to 35,000 Palestinian deaths; and 226 days where the risk of further regional escalation worsens every day. We will keep repeating our call until it happens: there must be an immediate ceasefire, as this House supported through Labour’s motion and as demanded by the United Nations Security Council resolution. Diplomatic pressure must now go into overdrive to bring the fighting to an end.

Labour has been opposed to an Israeli offensive in Rafah for months. The UK Government should now work with the United States to try to prevent a full-scale Rafah offensive, by being clear that they will assess UK exports and, if it goes ahead, join our American allies in suspending weapons or components that could be used in that offensive.

When we last met on this subject, I asked the Deputy Foreign Secretary to confirm whether he or the Foreign Secretary had received from Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office officials any assessment or policy advice—not legal advice—that the threshold had already been met. He dodged the question, and did not answer. I repeat that question to him today. The whole House will be interested in his response.

Last November in this House, the Deputy Foreign Secretary appeared to row back on Boris Johnson’s shameful abandonment of the International Criminal Court when he said:

“It is not for Ministers to seek to state where the ICC has jurisdiction”.—[Official Report, 14 November 2023;
Vol. 740, c. 513.]

The Prime Minister followed up in December when he said:

“we are a strong and long-standing supporter of the International Criminal Court.”—[Official Report, 6 December 2023;
Vol. 742, c. 336.]

But in today’s statement, the Government have backtracked, U-turning on one of the Britain’s most fundamental principles: respect for the rule of law. Labour has been clear throughout this conflict that international law must be upheld, the independence of international courts must be respected, and all sides must be accountable for their actions. I ask the Minister very simply: does he agree?

Arrest warrants are not a conviction or a determination of guilt, but they do reflect the evidence, and the judgment of the prosecutor about the grounds for individual criminal responsibility. Labour’s position is that the ICC chief prosecutor’s decision to apply for arrest warrants is an independent matter for the Court and the prosecutor. Does the Minister agree? Labour believes that the ICC’s independence must be upheld and respected, and that it is right that the conduct of all parties is addressed by the Court. Does the Minister agree? Labour believes that the focus of politicians should be on achieving an immediate ceasefire, in order to end the war in Gaza, free the hostages, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and create a pathway towards a lasting political solution. Does the Minister agree? Labour believes the UK and all parties to the Rome statute have a legal obligation to comply with orders and warrants issued by the ICC. Democracies that believe in the rule of law must submit themselves to it. Does the Minister agree?

Labour supports the ICC as a cornerstone of the international legal system. That support applies regardless of the Court’s focus, whether it is in Ukraine, Sudan, Syria or Gaza. Does the Minister agree? This gets to the heart of a simple question. Does the Conservative party —the party of Churchill, who was one of the founders of our international legal framework—believe in the international rule of law or not?

  Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I start by assuring the shadow Foreign Secretary that the Government’s answer to his final question is, as he would expect, yes. It is worth stating that if one looks carefully at his high-flown oratory this afternoon, we do not see very much distinction between the positions of His Majesty’s Opposition and the Government, as I will set out.

The right hon. Gentleman starts off by saying that this is day 226 of the incarceration of the hostages, of the destruction that has taken place, and of the risks of escalation. I completely agree with what he says. He says that the diplomatic pressure must rise. I can tell him that the diplomatic pressure is intense on all counts and in all places. He says that we must work closely with the United States of America. Let me assure him that we are working intensively and closely with the United States.

The right hon. Gentleman asks me about the advice we receive, and suggests that I dodged the question on the earlier occasion. I certainly had no intention of doing so. I can tell him that we receive all sorts of advice from all sorts of places, but we do not—as is the custom and practice, as he knows well—disclose our legal advice. We are always careful to follow it meticulously; that is my answer to his question.

The right hon. Gentleman asks: is this a matter on which the International Criminal Court should act independently? My answer is that of course it is, but we do not necessarily have to stay silent on what the court is doing, and we certainly are not doing so. On his question about the letter from a former Prime Minister, as we have said from the outset, we do not think that the ICC has jurisdiction in this case. The UK has not recognised Palestine as a state, and Israel is not a state party to the Rome statute.

As I say, if we split away some of what the right hon. Gentleman said today from the oratory that he customarily displays in this place, we see that the positions of the Opposition Front Bench and the Government remain very closely aligned.


Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on compliance with international humanitarian law in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

  Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on compliance with international humanitarian law in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

  Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

As all Members know, the Law Officers’ convention means that I cannot disclose outside Government whether or not I have provided advice, or the specifics of such advice, but it is no secret that we continue to call for international humanitarian law to be respected and for civilians to be protected.

  Mary Glindon Opposition Whip (Commons)

It is more than three months since the International Court of Justice issued its interim ruling on the Gaza conflict and set out steps that Israel must take in order to protect civilian life. The Netanyahu Government have, as yet, failed to comply with that ruling, but our Government have still not come out publicly and urged them to do so. Will the Attorney General take the opportunity today to call on Israel to take the steps ordered by the Court?

  Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

This Government firmly respect the role and the independence of the ICJ. Its ruling, or order, called for the immediate release of the hostages and referred to the need to get more aid into Gaza, and that is exactly what the Government are also calling for.

  Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

The ICJ ruling also declared that there was a “plausible right” to be protected from genocide, and following the urgent question to the Deputy Foreign Secretary on Tuesday I cited United Nations international law relating to that. When there are concerns about a potential genocide taking place, those are the circumstances in which the sale of arms should be withdrawn. Can the Attorney General tell me, and my constituents—as this is a massive issue for thousands of people across the country—exactly when the Government will come out and recognise both international law and the risks that we take in breaching it?

Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

This Government believe very firmly in international law. On 9 April, the Foreign Secretary announced that our position on export licences was unchanged. We publish data on our export licensing decisions transparently and on a quarterly basis.

  Emily Thornberry Shadow Attorney General

We have heard questions about the International Court of Justice, but I want ask some questions about the International Criminal Court. Its chief prosecutor said last week that

“all attempts to impede, intimidate, or improperly influence” the Court over its investigations of war crimes in Gaza must “cease immediately”.

He was forced to issue that demand after a letter signed by 12 United States senators warned the ICC:

“Target Israel and we will target you.”

That letter threatened sanctions not just against the ICC’s officials, but against its employees, associates and families.

Will the Attorney General join me in condemning those Republican senators for their outrageous actions? Will she also join the chief prosecutor in agreeing that anyone who threatens the ICC simply for doing its job is undermining the very impartiality and independence on which its international mandate depends?

  Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

I thought that the ICC’s statement was worthy of note, and I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for bringing it to the House’s attention. In his statement, the independent prosecutor was also keen to point out that he welcomed active engagement by Governments and other parties on the work in which he is clearly engaged around the world to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected and war crimes are not committed. He is a British prosecutor, and we in this Government are proud to work with him; we have been very proud to support him in his work in Ukraine, for example. There are ongoing investigations of what is going on in Israel and Gaza by more than one international court at present, and I think it is difficult to speculate on specific outcomes.

  Brendan O’Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

The Attorney General will be aware of the Government’s grounds of defence in the ongoing case of Al-Haq v. the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, in which the FCDO lawyers admitted that the

“inability to come to a clear assessment on Israel’s record of compliance” with international humanitarian law “poses significant policy risks”. What is the Attorney General’s assessment of that submission? Given the FCDO’s concerns about Israel’s compliance with IHL, what has she said to her Cabinet colleagues who are worried that the issuing of arms export licences could make the UK Government complicit in breaches of international humanitarian law and the arms trade treaty?

Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot give my specific legal advice. I cannot share that with the House—it is for the Government alone—but I can say that the Foreign Secretary has reviewed the most recent advice from the IHL cell. That has informed his decision that there is not a clear risk that the items exported from the UK might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of IHL. It leaves our position on export licences unchanged, but that position is kept under review.

Asked by

My Lords, we want an end to the fighting as soon as

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My Lords, on the issue of consequences for actions, we have raised a number of concerns directly with the Israeli Government. I am sure the noble Lord saw, for example, on the issue of settler violence, that specific sanctions were issued on Friday, including against key settler organisations.


My Lords, the Government repeatedly said that the invasion of Rafah should not happen and that it was a red line, as did the

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21 March 2024

The Foreign Affairs Committee has published correspondence from Foreign Secretary David Cameron on aid to Gaza.

The letter confirms that the United Nations has not requested that the Kerem Shalom crossing is closed on Saturdays, saying that it is the Foreign Office’s understanding that Israel closes it due to the Sabbath.  

Foreign Secretary Cameron voices “enormous frustration” that UK aid for Gaza has been routinely held up waiting for Israeli permissions. The main blockers remain arbitrary denials by the Government of Israel and lengthy clearance procedures, including multiple screenings and narrow opening windows in daylight hours. The letter provides an example of some UK funded aid being stuck at the border for just under three weeks waiting for approval. The Foreign Secretary says he is gravely concerned that any aid – including UK aid – has been stalled, delayed or rejected at the border.  

The letter says that Israel has the ability to turn the taps back on and that they should do so. It says that the UK Government continues to press Israel to allow in the fuel supplies needed for water pumping and desalination and calls on Israel to restore water through the pipelines from Israel.  

The letter also discusses the threats of unexploded ordnance and the potential for this to affect the delivery of humanitarian aid. It says that maritime corridors and air drops cannot substitute delivery through land routes.  

Chair’s comment

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, said:

“We are watching one of the most desperate, distressing humanitarian disasters in recent memory unfold in front of our eyes.  

The UK and our allies are willing to provide aid to innocent Gazans, many of whom are women and children, caught in the crossfires of this conflict.  

Today’s letter confirms what we saw and heard on our visit to the border area – that Israel’s arbitrary denials and lengthy clearance processes are key factors in holding up the delivery of aid. It also confirms that Israel has the ability and power to turn the water back on in Gaza, and so far has chosen not to do so. If the famine continues along its current trajectory, thousands of Gazans will lose their lives. This is suffering on an unimaginable scale.  

The new maritime highway is a poor substitute for land corridors, which remain the best way of delivering a large amount of aid in a short period. Israel needs to open Ashdod port and more border crossings to enable the much-needed aid to reach the people in Gaza.  

I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for being so clear and candid; this is essential in times of crisis.”

Mr Andrew Mitchell, Conservative


The Government supports Israels right to self-defence, in compliance with International Humanitarian Law, against the horrific terror attacks perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October 2023.

We condemn the slaughter, abuse and gender-based violence perpetrated on 7th October 2023, Hamas’ use of civilian areas, their continued failure to release hostages and their ongoing launching of attacks into Israel.

We are working to end the fighting in Gaza, to stop the further loss of civilian lives and create the conditions for a permanent peace.

The most effective way to end the fighting in Gaza is to agree an immediate humanitarian pause, which we have consistently called for. This would allow for the safe release of hostages and a significant increase in the aid going to Gaza.

Crucially, it would also provide a vital opportunity to establish the conditions for a genuinely long-term and sustainable ceasefire, without a return to destruction, fighting and loss of life.

That is a position shared by our close partners, and what our diplomatic efforts are focused on.

We have set out the vital elements for a lasting peace, namely:

  • the immediate release of all hostages;
  • removing Hamas’s capacity to launch attacks against Israel;
  • Hamas no longer being in charge of Gaza;
  • the formation of a new Palestinian Government for the West Bank and Gaza, accompanied by an international support package; and,
  • a political horizon which provides a credible and irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution.

We are increasingly concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and recognise the urgent need to significantly scale up the flow of aid getting in. All parties must take immediate steps to ensure unhindered humanitarian access, ease restrictions on humanitarian supplies and ensure the UN and aid agencies can reach civilians in need throughout Gaza.

The UK is stepping up support. We have tripled our aid commitment. In the last week, family tents provided by the UK and Qatar have arrived in Rafah, and on Wednesday, the UK and Jordan air-dropped life-saving aid to a hospital in northern Gaza, providing four tonnes of vital supplies including medicines and food for hospital patients and staff.

We remain deeply concerned at the number of civilian casualties to date, and at the prospect of an Israeli military offensive into Rafah. Over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area, and the Rafah crossing is vital to ensure aid can reach the people who so desperately need it. We continue to urge Israel to limit its operations to military targets and avoid harming citizens.

Ultimately, a two-state solution is the best way to ensure safety and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. Our long-standing position remains that we will recognise a Palestinian State at a time that is most conducive to the peace process.

The Palestinian Authority has an important long-term role to play and will need continued support from us and our partners, but it must also take concrete steps on reform. We remain concerned about the situation in the West Bank– and have taken action in response to extremist settler violence.

We are committed to finding a lasting resolution to this conflict that ensures Israelis and Palestinians can live in the future with dignity and security. It is the aim of the Government to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible and the creation of a permanent peace based on a new political horizon for the region.

Declares that the only and quickest route to lasting peace in Palestine is for all sides to support and adhere to full ceasefire; condemns violence against people for simply being Israeli, equally condemns violence against people simply for being Palestinian; mourns the growing death toll of women, men and children and grieves for the thousands more traumatised by what they have witnessed and experienced.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to add its voice to international calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire so that aid can continue to reach Palestinians; bombed out homes, universities and hospitals in Palestine can be rebuilt and the process to finding last peace with a two state solution can begin.

Observations from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office:

The UK supports a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, with an end to the destruction, the release of hostages and no return to hostilities, creating a deliverable political horizon to a two-state solution.

No one wants to see this conflict go on a moment longer than necessary, and an immediate pause is now necessary to get aid in and hostages out. The situation is desperate.

Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, in accordance with international humanitarian law and its obligations in Gaza and across the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The best outcome will be moving from that pause to a sustainable ceasefire without a return to hostilities. Of course, a sustainable, permanent ceasefire—with an end to the destruction, fighting and loss of life, the release of hostages and no resumption of hostilities—would be the best way forward. To achieve that, a number of things would need to happen:

Hamas would have to agree to the release of all hostages

Hamas would no longer be in charge of Gaza—and the threat from Hamas terror and rocket attacks would have to end.

Agreement in place for the Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza in order to provide governance and services and, increasingly, security.

There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza; the current levels are woefully inadequate and are deepening the humanitarian crisis. Israel must take steps, working with other partners including the UN and Egypt, to significantly increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including allowing prolonged humanitarian pauses, opening more routes into Gaza, and restoring and sustaining water, fuel and electricity supplies.

Israel must also take the following steps:

Ensure effective systems to guarantee the safety of aid convoys, humanitarian operations and IDP returns, and facilitate access.

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Ensure the UN has the people, vehicles and equipment to distribute aid safely across Gaza. This includes issuing visas.

Extend the opening hours and capacity of the Nitzana screening facility and the Kerem Shalom checkpoint so more trucks, aid and fuel can enter Gaza.

Open the Kerem Shalom crossing seven days a week.

Remove restrictions to ensure greater consistency on the goods allowed in.

Allow unencumbered access to aid coming from Jordan.

Open Ashdod port as a route for aid to reach Gaza.

Open the Erez crossing to allow direct access to the north of Gaza.

Restore water, fuel and electricity connections.

We have trebled our aid commitment this financial year to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the UK is doing everything it can to get more aid in and open more crossings. We played a leading role in securing the passage of Security Council resolution 2720, which set out the urgent demand for expanded humanitarian access in Gaza. We have also supported the United Nations World Food Programme to deliver a new humanitarian land corridor from Jordan into Gaza. Seven hundred and fifty metric tonnes of lifesaving food aid arrived in the first delivery in December and a second delivery of 315 tonnes was made in January 2024. The first UK maritime shipment of aid for Gaza arrived into Egypt on 3 January, carrying 87 tonnes of lifesaving UK and Cypriot aid for the people of Gaza, delivered by Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Lyme Bay, in addition to 74 tonnes of aid previously delivered.

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The Foreign Secretary and I continue to discuss and press for the action that needs to be taken to increase aid to Gaza in regular calls with our Israeli, Egyptian, Jordanian, Lebanese, US and Palestinian Authority counterparts, recently with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza and Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to raise the urgent need for increased aid to Gaza. The Foreign Secretary has also appointed his representative for humanitarian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Mark Bryson-Richardson. He is based in the region and is working intensively to address the blockages preventing more aid reaching Gaza.

We remain deeply concerned about the impact of the conflict on the civilian population in Gaza. There must be a reduction in civilian casualties. Israel must act within international humanitarian law and protect civilians.

We are clear that for a peaceful solution, four things must happen—there must be a Palestinian-led Government in Gaza and the West Bank, a concrete plan to help reform and support the Palestinian Authority, a massive reconstruction plan for Gaza and a political horizon towards delivering a two-state solution. This will provide a safe and secure Israel living alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state across the Occupied Palestinian Territories—the west bank and Gaza—based on 1967 borders and agreed land swaps. The Foreign Secretary and I are fully engaged and committed to working with allies and regional partners in pursuit of this vital objective.

The statement follows the “Settlements Bring Security” conference organised in Jerusalem on 28 January.

“The UK is alarmed by the conference in Jerusalem calling for the resettlement of Gaza, and that Israeli ministers participated. 

“The UK’s position is clear: Gaza is occupied Palestinian territory and will be part of the future Palestinian state. 

“Settlements are illegal. No Palestinian should be threatened with forcible displacement or relocation.”


The FCDO has issued a statement in response to allegations that UN Relief and Works Agency staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel

An FCDO spokesperson said:

The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK Government has repeatedly condemned.

The UK is temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst we review these concerning allegations.

We remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza who desperately need it.


An FCDO spokesperson said:

We respect the role and independence of the ICJ. However we have stated that we have considerable concerns about this case, which is not helpful in the goal of achieving a sustainable ceasefire.

Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas in line with IHL, as we have said from the outset. Our view is that Israel’s actions in Gaza cannot be described as a genocide, which is why we thought South Africa’s decision to bring the case was wrong and provocative.

We welcome the Court’s call for the immediate release of hostages and the need to get more aid into Gaza. We are clear that an immediate pause is necessary to get aid in and hostages out, and then we want to build towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to the fighting.



What is very clear is the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is worsening daily.
People have lost their families. People have lost their homes. Hundreds of
thousands of Palestinians are now facing the risk of famine. Their suffering, frankly put, is unacceptable and our priority must be to alleviate it.

Last month, together with the Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, we both
visited Al Arish, near the Rafah crossing. Amongst other engagements, it
was a privilege to meet Egyptian Red Crescent Society staff who, along
with others including UNRWA and many other international organisations,
are working tirelessly to get life saving aid into Gaza. May I put on record
that we sincerely commend all UN and humanitarian teams for their
ongoing work, amid hugely difficult conditions on the ground. Many, as
we’ve heard, already have paid with their lives.

I’ve heard also first-hand reports of what can only be described as shocking
and harrowing medical operations and procedures taking place, including
on young children, desperate conditions, no anaesthesia and, as a backdrop to that, mass burials taking place. To put it succinctly and directly,
this must end. Agreements are needed now, and the UK is calling for an immediate humanitarian pause as being necessary to get lifesaving aid in and hostages out. We must alleviate the pain and suffering for all. 

In parallel and in accordance with Resolution 2720, we urgently call on Israel to significantly increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including through opening Ashdod port and increasing immediate access through Kerem
Shalom. This needs to happen and happen now.

The United Kingdom has trebled its financial aid commitment to support
Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories this year. And I
assure you, Mr President, we will continue to do everything we can to get more aid in and open more crossings. 

Yes, the UK supports Israel’s security, its right to self-defence, but this must
be in line with international humanitarian law. And of course, like others, we condemn all forms of terrorism. Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks have had an irreversible impact on innocent lives. I’ve seen this as I saw again last
week in my meetings together with the Foreign Secretary, with families of
some of the hostages still held in Gaza.

But what is very clear is that this conflict must not go on a moment longer than necessary. We must collectively work towards a sustainable ceasefire
which ends this shocking destruction, which ends fighting, which ends loss
of life and prevents the resumption of hostilities.

So what do we need to do to achieve this? Hamas would have to agree the release of all hostages. No longer can they be in charge of Gaza and no longer pose a threat to Israel through terror attacks. But we also need an
agreement in place for the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, as
well as a complete rejection of any forced displacement of Palestinians
from Gaza. 

Peace, Mr President, remains the only way to end this tragedy and suffering that has engulfed Israelis and Palestinians once and for all.
Stability, peace, justice and security is the only way forward. For a peaceful
solution, 4 things must also happen: There must be a Palestinian led government in Gaza and across the West Bank, there must be a concrete plan to help revitalise and support the Palestinian Authority, there must be a massive reconstruction plan for Gaza, and importantly, there must be a political horizon towards the delivery of a two-state solution. 

It is now the time in this tragedy that engulfs us to grasp the moment, to
choose hope over despair, peace over conflict, and again commit ourselves to working together to make that vision for peace a true living reality of two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side in the Middle East.

Oral Question Tabled by Baroness Janke

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what steps he is taking to secure a lasting ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Gaza.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Janke is unwell. With her permission, and on her behalf, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.
The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton) (Con)

My Lords, we support a ceasefire, but this must be a sustainable ceasefire that will last and prevent another generation living under the constant threat of war. That must mean that Hamas is no longer in power in Gaza, able to threaten Israel with rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism. Ahead of a permanent ceasefire, we want to see immediate and sustained humanitarian pauses to allow hostages to leave and more aid to enter Gaza, helping to create the conditions for a durable peace. As I said at the weekend, we would like to see such a pause start right now.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)

My Lords, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his reply, and I agree with most of it. However, these Benches have for a number of weeks called for an immediate bilateral ceasefire, beyond a truce, which would allow hostages to be returned, bombing to stop and, of course, vital lifesaving aid to be secured. Why have the Government failed so far to persuade the Israeli Government to allow much greater access for the humanitarian aid that is needed? There are 1.9 million displaced people, many of whom are now facing famine. We now know that, when it comes to civilian casualties, this is the most deadly conflict in the 21st century. The UK will need to increase its support of humanitarian assistance, but it cut that from £107 million to £12 million between 2019 and 2023. I support the increase in aid but, surely, there will need to be an increase of the cap of 0.5% if we are to do our bit and ensure that aid is increased.
Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)

First, I would say to the noble Lord that we have trebled the amount of aid that we are putting into Gaza. I very much take on board what he says about the pressure we need to put on not just the Israeli Government but other Governments in the region to get more aid in. Right now, as we speak, nine out of 10 people in Gaza are living on less than one meal a day. It is that serious. That is why I have had repeated conversations with the Israelis and set out a whole series of bottlenecks that need to be relieved. We need Kerem Shalom open all the time. We need the Nitzana checkpoint open all the time. I would like to see the port of Ashdod opened in Israel so that aid can get into the country through maritime routes and more swiftly into Gaza.

Crucially, we will not see more aid get to the people who need it unless the United Nations inside Gaza has the vehicles, the people and the fuel to get it around. Those permissions need to be given. I have had these conversations most recently this morning with the new UN aid co-ordinator, who I am confident will do an excellent job. We will keep up the pressure for this, because, as I have said, an immediate pause to help get that aid in and to help get hostages out is essential.

Lord Owen (Ind SD)

Will the Foreign Secretary consider very seriously creating a UN protection force for humanitarian relief? That was done successfully in the winter of 1992 in a very difficult situation, with no ceasefire, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I recommend that approach. Although a ceasefire is essential, it is not in the immediate future very likely, but the humanitarian crisis is getting worse every day. They cannot get relief in without some form of protection from UN forces.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)

I take what the noble Lord says, as a former Foreign Secretary, extremely seriously. What would make a difference is if Israel recognised its responsibilities for making sure that food, medicine and supplies have to be delivered to people in Gaza, and if it recognised that you need the UN staff who have the visas, the equipment and the fuel to help get it around. I will certainly take away the suggestion that the noble Lord makes, but the calculation here is quite simple. Before the conflict, some 500 trucks were going into Gaza every day. I check the figures every single day; we are up to about 150 trucks at the moment. That is not enough. The longer it goes on, the greater the risk of people going hungry and the greater the risk of disease and this humanitarian crisis getting worse. A pause would help, because there is no doubt that it would be easier to get food and other forms of aid in. It would also be very good to make some progress on the hostages, families of whom I met this morning.

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary makes an alarming point: that within Gaza nine out of 10 Palestinians are not even getting a single meal every day. The need for a sustained ceasefire is absolutely clear as a first step towards getting humanitarian aid in. The Government confirmed last week that currently there are no plans for RAF aid flights or deliveries by the Royal Navy. Can he say why that is? Surely that would be a good way of getting aid in and trying to get around some of the problems that we have at the moment.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)

We are looking at every single way of getting aid in. Of course, there are maritime options, and we had a ship leaving Cyprus and taking aid to Port Said in Egypt. The so-called over-the-beach option of trying to land aid in Gaza is extremely difficult for reasons of operational security and other forms of security. On dropping aid by air, the French and Jordanians did so recently, but it was less aid than you would get into one truck. The truth is that the best way to get aid into Gaza is through trucks. As I said, 500 are needed, 150 are happening, and if you opened up Kerem Shalom seven days a week, if you had the Nitzana checkpoint open 24/7 and if you had the people inside Gaza, there would be plenty of aid. There is no shortage of aid and no shortage of countries prepared to make the financial commitment. In the end, trucks are faster, and it is trucks that we need.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con)

My Lords, women and children are always disproportionately affected by conflict. The UK considers itself a global leader on the women, peace and security agenda and holds the pen for this at the UN Security Council. Why are we not hearing from women’s groups? After all, they were integral in bringing peace in both Northern Ireland and Liberia.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)

It is very important that we hear from everybody. One of the things that I do with the responsibilities of the aid and development portfolio that is now squarely within the Foreign Office is to make sure that we listen to all the

NGOs, all the experts and all the people who can make a difference when it comes to getting aid in and trying to relieve this desperate humanitarian situation.

Lord Grocott (Lab)

When the Foreign Secretary said “I am worried that Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law”,did he have in mind the principle of proportionality in armed conflict and whether it is a proportionate self-defence by Israel to have been responsible so far for some 24,000 Palestinian deaths, including 10,000 children?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)

What I meant when I said that was simply that I worry about these things. It is my job to worry. The Foreign Office has a job, which is to look at the legal advice and work out whether Israel is committed to, and capable of complying with, international humanitarian law, and then, based on that judgment, we have to take a series of actions, including looking at things like export licences. We always urge Israel to obey international humanitarian law, and it is important that we do so.

Lord Robathan (Con)

Is it not the case that there would be an immediate ceasefire tomorrow if Hamas were to release the hostages and lay down its weapons, and if the criminals who did atrocities on 7 October were to go and join their leaders in luxury hotels in the Gulf?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)

My noble friend makes a good point, which is that Hamas could end this tomorrow by saying that it was going to lay down its weapons or leave. Everyone is aware that we want a sustainable ceasefire. That means Hamas not in power and not able to launch rockets and terror, and we have said we want to see an immediate pause so we can get aid in and hostages out. However, in many ways, the very best outcome would be to see whether we could convert that immediate pause for aid and hostages into a sustainable ceasefire without further hostilities. But for that to happen, a series of other things would have to happen: there would have to be immediate negotiations to release all the hostages, the Hamas leadership would have to leave Gaza, and we would have to be clear that there was no more danger of rocket and terror attacks on Israel. We would have to put together something based on the Palestinian Authority, backed by other Palestinians, going back into Gaza. In many ways, that would be the best outcome, but if we call now for an immediate ceasefire with no further fighting when Hamas is still in power, still launching rockets and still capable of launching terror attacks, not only would we not have a sustainable ceasefire and peace but we would have no hope of the thing that I think many in this House would like to see, which is a two-state solution.

With crossings opened for longer, water supplies restored and UN staff able to safely distribute food, we can limit the scale of this catastrophe.

It was heartbreaking to read the latest independent assessment of hunger in Gaza. The situation is desperate – and projected to get worse. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 9 out of every 10 Palestinians in northern Gaza may be eating less than 1 meal a day.

With families displaced and sanitation close to non-existent, disease and illness will spread. Almost 40% of Gaza’s population is aged under 15. Death and despair haunt these children’s lives. We all know we must act. The question is how.

Some say we must have an immediate ceasefire. I do not want to see this conflict go on a moment longer than necessary. But this means achieving a sustainable ceasefire, one that will last and prevent another generation of children living under the constant threat of war. That means no more Hamas, and its rocket attacks and commitment to terror.

Given that, I have argued for further humanitarian pauses, to get more hostages out of and more aid in to Gaza.

But what if neither of these things happens soon? How do we avoid hunger turning into famine? How can we alleviate suffering while supporting Israel’s right to self-defence?

We need more aid – and fast. In recent days, the Royal Navy made its first maritime shipment of aid into Egypt, sending in more than 80 tonnes of blankets and life-saving medical supplies. And France and Jordan have dropped some aid by air into Gaza.

The British government and our partners are committed to being as creative as possible in getting life-saving assistance to those in need. But the fact is the need is too great for direct delivery via air and sea to make a significant difference in the short term. What matters is simpler: more aid delivered by land, more quickly and more effectively.

Last week, about 131 trucks were entering Gaza each day via the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings. The figure is creeping towards 200 daily. But even this is nowhere near enough – the number should be close to 500.

We recognise Israel’s own pain and anger after the horrors of 7 October, and with hostages still held in appalling conditions. Two British citizens are among them. Of course, Hamas shows no regard for the lives of civilians, Israeli or Palestinian. The situation on the ground is complex, and no one country can resolve it alone.

Yet it will do nothing for those hostages or Israel’s war aims if the situation turns into an even greater catastrophe. And I believe there is much more we can do that will make an immediate difference.

As I saw in al-Arish in Egypt, too much aid is presently piled up, unable to enter Gaza. I have appointed a representative for humanitarian affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Based on their intensive work, we have identified the bottlenecks and how to unblock them.

Take crossing points. With extended opening hours and capacity at the Nitzana screening facility and Kerem Shalom checkpoint, much more aid could enter Gaza. Opening Kerem Shalom in December helped – opening it 7 days a week would help even more.

Opening more routes for aid to come in and be loaded on to trucks would also be transformative. Ashdod port in Israel is much closer to Gaza than Port Said in Egypt. The facilities for mass delivery are there now, ready to be used.

The new land corridor from Jordan into Gaza – run by WFP, with British backing – has made a first delivery of 750 tonnes of food aid. Both these options could deliver enormous quantities of aid, especially if the Erez crossing at the north end of Gaza was open.

Greater consistency of the goods allowed in is vital. More rational and transparent explanations of what is restricted by Israel, and why, will allow governments, aid organisations and the private sector to scale up aid considerably.

Israel could also restore water supply lines, reconnect electricity supplies and let in sufficient fuel to power critical infrastructure such as bakeries.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly of all – we need to help the United Nations, whose brave staff are trying to manage distribution in desperate circumstances inside the Gaza Strip. It is no good getting aid in if it cannot be safely and effectively distributed. More visas and imports of vehicles for them will mean their staff can enter Gaza, enhancing our confidence that aid will reach those in genuine need.

These steps may seem technical, at odds with the scale of the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza. But our focus must be practical solutions that save lives, not empty slogans that make no difference on the ground. Such solutions exist. The time to act is now.

This article was originally published in The Guardian and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Hansard transcript: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/14047/html/
video: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/44138eb7-41b6-47eb-9c61-e9ac76acc233

Meeting started at 2.31pm, ended 4.40pm

Members present: Alicia Kearns (Chair); Dan Carden; Fabian Hamilton; Mr Ranil Jayawardena; Brendan O’Hara; Bob Seely; Royston Smith; Henry Smith; Graham Stringer.
Questions 582-725
Witnesses: Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton, Foreign Secretary, and Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Excepts. For the full transcript click on links.

Chair: Bob, can you move us on to Israel and Gaza?

Q593       Bob Seely: Absolutely. Can I just double-check, Foreign Secretary, what our objectives are in relation to Israel and Gaza?

Lord Cameron: Our objective above everything is to try and help achieve some stability in the Middle East. In the short term, our goal is to see an end to this conflict, but our longer-term goal is that we believe that there will not be true security, either for Israel or for the Palestinians, without moving towards a two-state solution. So we have a short-term horizon of wanting to get to a sustainable ceasefire, which we can talk about, and then a longer-term horizon of recognising that no ceasefire is really fully sustainable forever, unless you actually have a political horizon.

Q594       Bob Seely: Apart from our concern, are we doing anything like, for example, developing a road map or a peace plan with some of our Arab friends in the Middle East—Egypt, the UAE and other countries?

Lord Cameron: Yes, we are. I have travelled to the region twice already, and I am sure I will be going again before too long. You do not have to travel to have the sorts of conversations we are having with, for instance, European allies and the Americans, but also, crucially, with the Gulf and Arab states, about what the future should look like.

Fundamentally, four things have to happen. Once this conflict is over, we have to see a Palestinian-led Government in Gaza and the West Bank. We need a concrete plan of support for that Government, and a plan to help reform and support the Palestinian Authority. We have to see a massive reconstruction plan for Gaza after this conflict is over, and crucially, we have to see a political horizon towards a two-state solution. The way I see it, you won’t get the sort of assistance needed on security, governance and technical help in Gaza after the conflict unless you can convince the Palestinian authorities, the Palestinian people and Arab states that you have a longer-term horizon towards a two-state solution.

Q595       Bob Seely: Do you think that is remotely feasible, given everything that has happened?

Lord Cameron: Yes. You’ve got to hope that it is feasible. Out of a crisis should come some opportunity. What is interesting is that from all the conversations I have had—with the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Emiratis, the Saudis—it seems an awful lot of people would accept those four planks of a plan, in one form or another, going together.

Q596       Bob Seely: Does our current position damage our friendships with Arab nations?

Lord Cameron: Fundamentally, I would say that it does not. Definitely there is stress there, because of course the Arab states all want to see, or have called for, an immediate ceasefire. They are deeply concerned, as I am, by what is happening in Gaza and the loss of life. To sit here and argue that saying that we want a sustainable ceasefire has had no effect on our relations I think would be stretching it, but I would say that they understand that we are not being deliberately difficult or obtuse about this. We are just very classically British, common-sense, practical people, and I cannot see a comprehensive ceasefire coming in now, while Hamas are still able to launch rockets out of Gaza. That is why we speak of a sustainable ceasefire. While those states might be a bit disappointed in our position, I think they understand it, and recognise that it does at least make internal logical sense. Those relationships are very long-standing, as you know. I think they will work with us on this sort of agenda.

Chair: I will bring in Dan on that point.

Q597       Dan Carden: Welcome, Foreign Secretary. Josep Borrell has stated that the EU’s position on Gaza-Israel has damaged the EU’s relationship with the Global South, and leaked US cables have said similar. Do you feel that the same goes for the UK?

Lord Cameron: Certainly, there are countries in the Global South, or however you want to term it, that want an immediate ceasefire, and disagree with people who do not. That means that you are in disagreement, so perhaps your standing with them will suffer in some way, but I do not think that we should just accept that and do nothing about it; I think we have to make our case very vigorously, as I do. When I meet a South African Foreign Minister, for instance, I would say, “Look, I want this conflict to end as soon as possible. I don’t want it to go on for a moment longer than necessary, but for a ceasefire to work, it has to be sustainable. That means that you can’t have Hamas in power able to launch rockets and not releasing hostages. That has to be dealt with.”

Q598       Dan Carden: Do you believe that military intervention can defeat Hamas?

Lord Cameron: What the Israelis are trying to do is get rid of Hamas’ ability to launch further attacks on Israel. I think you can do that. One can disagree—and I would have differences with them—on the way that they have gone about it. Can you defeat an ideology though armed intervention? No. Defeating an ideology is going to take a lot of other things, including progress towards a political solution, to show that politics can work and deliver things. But if you take the argument that there is nothing more that can be done militarily—you just have to freeze things where we are now—you then have to make an argument for how you get the remainder of Hamas out of Gaza, and get rid of the rocket launchers.

My challenge to those from the Global South, or friends in Arab states, is to say, “Okay, let’s say there’s a ceasefire tomorrow; how do you get rid of Hamas’s capacity to launch more rockets?”

Q599       Dan Carden: How will you know when that moment has come, as the British Foreign Secretary? Is it your hope that the UK will be voting for a ceasefire at the UN in the near future?

Lord Cameron: I would hope that we’ll be voting—I mean, what we did is we defined what we wanted as a sustainable ceasefire. The Prime Minister said that at Prime Minister’s questions, and within a few weeks, that was adopted by the UN in resolution 2720 with unanimous—well, not unanimous agreement, because the United States didn’t vote in favour, but without a veto. So that’s our position. Yes, I look forward to the moment when this conflict is over.

Of course, we spend a lot of time asking what Israel should do next to bring this to an end, to a finish. We should also spend a nanosecond saying that if Hamas wanted, they could end this tomorrow; they could lay down their arms; they could leave Gaza. They are the ones prolonging this conflict, in many ways.

Q600       Dan Carden: You have warned against an unsustainable ceasefire that quickly collapses into further violence, but there is a strong feeling, I think, in the international community and among the public, that the longer the violence continues and the further away peace is, the more we are going to struggle to get to peace.

Lord Cameron: I don’t disagree with that. You know, we don’t want this to go on—

Dan Carden: But you can’t really—

Lord Cameron: First of all, I would be in favour of humanitarian pauses, including right now. Let us have another pause to try and get hostages out and to get more aid in. I would be happy for us to do that now. What I am saying about a sustainable ceasefire is that it does need Hamas to no longer be capable of launching attacks into Israel—otherwise, it is not sustainable, and I hope that moment comes as quickly as possible.

Q601       Chair: Okay. Foreign Secretary, just to take you back for a moment, what is the UK’s current legal position on whether or not Gaza is occupied?

Lord Cameron: Our position is that Israel is fighting a campaign against Hamas. We have to check regularly whether that is in compliance with international humanitarian law and assess that. I do not think Israel regards itself as an occupying force, but, on whether that is correct, I would want to take legal advice, because this comes to this issue about aid, where I think Israel needs to do more—a lot more—to get more aid into Gaza, which perhaps we can come on to.

Q602       Chair: Forgive me, we know that Israel does not consider itself to be an occupying power, but British law currently does consider Gaza to be an occupied territory. Can you just confirm that on the record?

Lord Cameron: I don’t know the precise legal definition of that; I’d have to go back and check.

Q603       Chair: Philip, I think we all know that the Foreign Office does know what the official legal position is.

Sir Philip Barton: We describe the territories as “the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, but—

Lord Cameron: That’s a different question though—

Sir Philip Barton: But that’s a descriptor. I think we should give you a piece of written advice on the legal position.

Lord Cameron: I think what the Chair is asking is: do we consider Gaza to be occupied, militarily, at the moment? Is that what you are getting at?

Q604       Chair: I am asking for the British Government’s legal definition—whatever they consider to be the terminology of “occupied”—because, as I understand it, there is no question but that, in law, so under British law and according to the UN Security Council resolution 2334, on which we have based our legal position, Gaza is an occupied territory. Therefore, from that, Israel does have obligations as an occupying power. Whether or not they consider themselves to be one or not, British law does state that, and I would consider it to be quite fundamental that we knew exactly from what premise we were operating when engaging with something so complex.

Lord Cameron: Well, as you know, we refer to them as the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but obviously Gaza was left by Israel. But I think the question you’re asking now is, “Is what Israel has done technically an occupation, and, therefore, do they have a legal obligation?” The point I would make is—look, whether or not they are de jure occupying, they are de facto occupying Gaza and therefore, when it comes to this issue of aid delivery, we need them to do more.

At the moment, we are at about 150 trucks a day getting into Gaza. We need to be closer to 500. Every day that we are not closer to 500, we are going to have more people going hungry; we are going to have more people getting disease. There is a danger of there being really widespread hunger. At the moment, something like 90% of Gazans are getting less than one meal a day. So I have set out with the Israelis a whole set of things that could happen—that they could do—that would make a real difference. Make sure that Kerem Shalom is open seven days a week. Make sure that the Nitzana checking point is open 24 hours a day. Make sure that aid convoys that are coming across Jordan have unhindered access into Gaza. Look at opening the Port of Ashdod so that aid can arrive by sea and go from Ashdod either into Kerem Shalom or, even better, into the Erez crossing. Crucially, none of these things will work unless inside Gaza you have UN personnel, trucks and fuel capable of taking the aid around Gaza. Again, only the Israelis can really fix that because a bunch of visa applications for people to be there are outstanding. There is a need for armoured cars for that aid to be distributed and taken around with, and that needs to be fixed, and fixed urgently.

Q605       Chair: I would also give you credit, Foreign Secretary, for what the UK Government has done on aid. Much progress has clearly been made as a result of that. Just for clarification, therefore, in your words, Gaza is “de facto” occupied and therefore Israel has obligations as an occupying power that you are saying today that you accept, at least—

Lord Cameron: I am saying they have. I am not a lawyer. I need to be careful—I am saying that they have responsibilities—

Q606       Chair: But you are saying that they have not met their obligations.

Lord Cameron: I am saying that they have got responsibilities to make sure that aid gets through. It is not solely them. I have been to el-‘Arīsh myself. There are problems with Egyptian bureaucracy. There is a problem with a lack of overseeing logistics and working out what aid is going where. There are other bottlenecks but fundamentally there are some things the Israelis need to do because ultimately they have a lot of responsibility for what is happening in Gaza. I am not giving you a legal definition, because I am not a lawyer. This is a moral and political point.

Q607       Chair: But de facto they are occupying and they are not currently doing all they could be doing on aid and therefore what they should be doing?

Lord Cameron: I want them to do more.

Q608       Graham Stringer: I want to ask a quick question, more on the home front. I represent a very large Jewish community and a very large Muslim community. Both communities are both angry and fearful about what is happening in Israel and Gaza. Is there anything you can do as Foreign Secretary to help the tension that those communities are feeling? Are you aware of the impact that it is having on those communities?

Lord Cameron: I am. I think everybody can feel it, whether they are living in London, in your constituency or in my old constituency. You feel it in so many of the conversations that you have. One of the most important things with both communities, but perhaps most importantly with British Muslims, is to demonstrate that we are an aid superpower that is doing what an aid superpower should be doing and getting aid into Gaza. I have just spelled out that we have the material—we have already delivered 74 tonnes of aid, and we could deliver much more if we could deal with these bottlenecks. That is hugely reassuring.

With the Jewish community, it is partly about demonstrating an understanding of just what a catastrophic event—what an appalling event—7 October was. Sometimes people can forget, because of what has happened subsequently, the scale of it. If you look at a country the size of Israel, to lose over 1,400 people in one day, in those most horrific circumstances—I have been to Kibbutz Be’eri and seen with my own eyes where children were shot in front of their parents, where people were raped, the blood on the floor and the bullet holes in the wall. It is something you are never going to forget. This happened to a country that is a friend of ours, and they are peace-loving people in these kibbutzes. Showing understanding—that we understand why they feel so strongly about that event—and trying to put ourselves in their shoes is really important.

Q609       Graham Stringer: Thank you. Can I ask a number of quick factual questions? How many UK citizens remain in Gaza and, in particular, in the north of Gaza?

Lord Cameron: In terms of the number of citizens in Gaza, we have got a lot out, and the Israelis, Egyptians and authorities within Gaza have been helpful in doing that—

Q610       Graham Stringer: Can you be specific on numbers?

Lord Cameron: I know there are two who want to get out who do not have any security clearance problems but have not yet got out. What I do not have—but Philip is going to find me the number—is that we think that there are still quite a number of British nationals or dual nationals who are in Gaza but who haven’t asked to leave. Have we got a number?

Sir Philip Barton: We cannot give you a precise number, as that will depend—

Q611       Chair: Forgive me, but Alex Chalk gave precise numbers on 7 November, when he said that 100 Brits had left Gaza and 100 were still in the country. So he gave very specific figures.

Lord Cameron: That was a long time ago. I think most of those 100 have left. The ones we do not know about are those who have not declared and do not necessarily want to leave.

Q612       Chair: So of those we know have declared, 50% have left?

Lord Cameron: More than that.

Sir Philip Barton: It is more than 300 now, people registered with us—British nationals and their dependants—have left with our assistance.

Lord Cameron: The crucial number is how many are there that are British nationals that want to leave and have not left, and I think that is a very small number at the moment. I will get back to you if I have got that wrong. It is also worth recognising that the Department is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.

There is also quite a number of people who have links to the UK. They might have the right to remain in the UK or they might be Commonwealth citizens from other countries who do not have representation in the region, but we do, whom we are helping to get out. There are also journalists and the families of journalists who have a British connection, as it were—they might work for the BBC or what have you—whom we are helping to get out, not to come to Britain necessarily but to carry on their work from Egypt or elsewhere.

Q613       Graham Stringer: Can you be specific about the number of UK nationals who remain as hostages?

Lord Cameron: Yes, there are two British nationals that remain as hostages. I do not want to make any further comment on them.

Q614       Graham Stringer: Do we know they are alive?

Lord Cameron: I just do not want to say any more. We do not have any information to share with you. There are also, of course, people very connected to Britain who are also hostages, and we are doing everything we can to try to help in both cases.

Q615       Graham Stringer: How many hostages have we managed to get back to the UK?

Lord Cameron: I do not have the figures off the top of my head. I will have to write to you about that because I do not have the figures and I do not want to give a false figure.

Q616       Chair: Forgive me, but we are not looking at 1,000 people where we are not sure. How many British nationals have been brought back who were hostages held by Hamas or Palestinian jihad?

Lord Cameron: I do not have—[Interruption.] Go on.

Sir Philip Barton: Israel is obviously taking the lead, in conjunction with international partners, including the UK, in trying to secure the release of hostages. We have been acting in support of that. We will have to confirm, but I do not think that the question about how many have been brought back to the UK is the right way—

Q617       Chair: I am going to be very fair to the Foreign Secretary and come back to you on this. A few of us were in Doha in December where we met Roger Carstens, who is the US hostage negotiator. He can tell me at a minute’s notice the names of all the American hostages who are still being held by Hamas, let alone the ones in Venezuela or anywhere else. He can most certainly tell me how many have been brought back to the US. How many have been brought back to the UK who had UK citizenship?

Sir Philip Barton: There are two, as the Foreign Secretary said, who have British nationality who were hostages, and there are others who are connected to the UK through family ties. The answer to your question about “brought back to the UK by the UK Government”, I would have to confirm—

Q618       Chair: I don’t really care who brought them back: I care about British nationals who were held hostage. How many have been brought back?

Sir Philip Barton: Let me confirm afterwards. I will speak for myself rather than for the Foreign Secretary: I don’t think there are any.

Q619       Graham Stringer: So the answer is zero.

Lord Cameron: I think that is right.

Q620       Chair: I will say that I understand from our discussions with hostage negotiators that citizenship is not being taken into account in terms of release. Obviously, many of us hoped at the start that foreign nationals might be the first to be released, but that is not the case. As you understand it at the moment, no British nationals are being held by Hamas. I understand why you feel you may not be able to share how many there are for various reasons, but no one has been able to be brought home as yet.

Lord Cameron: That is right. One of the things I did when I got into the Department was to make sure we were saying, “Yes, of course we must make sure we do everything we can for British nationals, but there are people who have been taken hostage who are deeply connected—

Chair: Absolutely.

Lord Cameron: —sister of, brother of, son of, and we must do everything we can for them.” When we get to that category, there are people who are connected to British citizens who have been released.

Q621       Chair: Do we know how many?

Lord Cameron: No, because then you are getting into how many different connections there are. Of the British nationals, two, and none have been released.

Q622       Graham Stringer: One last question, if I may. You may not know the answer to this, but are you able to assess the threat to British hostages from the IDF bombardment in the area, and have you made any specific representations to the IDF or the Israeli Government to protect those hostages?

Lord Cameron: We raise the issue—not just the British hostages, but the hostages connected to Britain and the hostages more generally—every time we speak with Israeli Ministers. The last call I had was with Minister Dermer on Saturday morning, when I raised the hostage issue with him. We always raise that issue. Of course, in Israel itself there is a huge lobby on behalf of the hostages, wanting to get the hostages home and to save the hostages. So, yes, we raise the issue on every occasion.

Q623       Chair: Moving on to the conduct of the military operation, I would be interested in your assessment of Hamas’s current capability, how much it has been degraded and what their intent is.

Lord Cameron: I think I have to be careful what I say. I mean, I’ve seen figures suggesting that they have lost well over 50% of their capacity and their capability in terms of being able to launch rockets and all the rest of it; I don’t think I can go further than that. Their ability to launch rockets into Israel has been significantly degraded, but, as we have seen, they have still launched rockets in recent days.

Q624       Chair: The Israelis said over the weekend that they have now dismantled Hamas’s military infrastructure in the north of Gaza. In your answer to Dan, you touched on the need for pauses. Is that not perhaps an opportunity to bring in a humanitarian pause in the north of Gaza? If Hamas has been dismantled, as the Israelis are saying they have succeeded in doing, do we need to look at particular areas having a humanitarian pause once that is appropriate? Otherwise, what is the current objective in the north of Gaza, as you understand it?

Lord Cameron: That is a very good point. What we have pushed for with Israel is to say, “Consider humanitarian pauses.” We have not particularly focused on an individual area. Most Gazans have moved from the north to the south, so it is more helpful to have a humanitarian pause covering the whole of Gaza, because then you can get the aid to where most people are, but, frankly, anything would help. In fact, one issue we would like the Israelis to look at is switching the water back on into northern Gaza, because that would make a difference. It is about all those things—but that is a good thought.

Q625       Chair: One challenge is that as yet there has been no safe place that they could go, so perhaps that suggestion could provide an avenue. As I am sure you saw me raise with the Prime Minister, President Biden has said that “indiscriminate” bombings have taken place. On 23 November, you warned that civilian casualties in Gaza were “too high” and that Israel must abide by international humanitarian law. How have you, as Foreign Secretary, achieved a reduction in civilian casualties?

Lord Cameron: What we have done on every occasion of talking, whether to the Israeli Prime Minister or President, or to Minister Dermer or Minister Gantz, whom I spoke with recently, is always make the point that of course we believe Israel has a right to defend itself and to deal with the Hamas threat, but it has to do so within international humanitarian law and it should try to avoid civilian casualties. We are very clear that they needed to do better in the south than they did in the north. They say today that they are moving from a sort of combat phase to more of a stabilisation phase. I do not fully know what they mean by that, but we definitely want them to do everything they can to try to move to a phase where civilians are less under threat.

Q626       Chair: Forgive me, but there is some sort of phrase that the US use, which I’m not going to quote accurately; it is something like “friends in public, punches behind the scenes.” Do we think that the UK or the US—obviously the US has taken the lead on this—have been unable to restrain Israel in any way, in terms of the way it has conducted its airstrikes?

Lord Cameron: I think it is a very difficult question to answer. I will answer a slightly different question, if I may. I think the relentless pressure that Israel felt—from us, the Americans and others—over opening the Kerem Shalom crossing did make a difference. They eventually relented. Because we are a friend of Israel, and we have been a helpful friend in many ways on many occasions, I hope that they listen to what we have said.

Q627       Chair: Forgive me, when I asked the Prime Minister about the same topic, he said that he had not seen Israel’s targeting. Have we asked to see Israel’s targeting process or procedures?

Lord Cameron: I haven’t seen it.

Chair: Have we asked to see it?

Lord Cameron: I haven’t asked to see it. I don’t think that that is something that they would share with us.

Q628       Chair: But they would share their collateral damage percentage that they are working to, if we asked them to do so.

Lord Cameron: They have certainly shared that, in that they point out—but one can say this is arguable—that their collateral damage percentage compared with other conflicts shows that they are taking the issue of civilian casualties very seriously, but that is a difficult one to—

Q629       Chair: I think it is a good way of holding them to account. Realistically, I believe—Royston might correct me on this—that the UK normally operates at around 3% collateral damage, and obviously a Minister will sign off particular airstrikes where there may be requirement for a greater risk factor. Israel must be operating at 20% or 30%. In 2014, they said they were working at 20-something per cent. I am surprised that we do not know what their civilian collateral damage percentage is, because that would be a direct way for us to have said to them, “Can you just get it down to below 10%?”

Lord Cameron: They do, in conversation, talk about what they think their percentages are. We do not think that is good enough, and we always push them to do more.

Q630       Chair: So we do know what their percentages are then?

Lord Cameron: We know what they say they have.

Q631       Chair: A final question from me before we move on to Brendan O’Hara, during the hostilities in Gaza in 2014, your Government decided to review licences for arms exports to Israel. You committed not to grant any further licences until hostilities were ceased. I think there were 12 specific licences that you were concerned about at the time. Why has there been no review, cessation, pause, despite the fact that there should have been an automatic trigger that exists within the Department to immediately suspend when there is a significant change on the ground?

Lord Cameron: The way this works is, as I am sure you know, that the grant of licences is done by the Department of Trade on the advice of the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office has to look at compliance with international humanitarian law, based on an assessment of the commitment that Israel has, the capability—and whether they can they actually deliver on that capability—and the compliance. That assessment is carried out on a rolling basis, so it is permanently reviewed. Where the circumstances change and we reach a different view, we would advise the Department of Trade accordingly.

Q632       Chair: But the immediate handbrake—for example, after the terrorist attack in Kosovo, an immediate handbrake was put in place on sales of arms to Serbia—there was no immediate handbrake on this situation that I am aware of, despite there having been an enormous terrorist attack and then a response, and there has been no specific review of licences.

Lord Cameron: The circumstances are different, because of 7 Octoberbeing such a hostile attack on Israel. The Government’s position is that Israel has the right to defend itself and the right to try to stop Hamas launching future terrorist attacks, so it would be odd to have an automatic handbrake. What you have to do is assess on an ongoing basis, which is what we are doing.

Q633       Chair: Israel has a full right to defend itself under international humanitarian law, but the British Government have a duty to ensure that its licences for arms exports are as accurate as they can be. So you are not aware of any review within the system formally? The point of a rolling basis is that you have the emergency handbrake when it is needed.

Lord Cameron: It is as you described—

Q634       Chair: But you put one in place in 2014, which is why I am surprised that there hasn’t been one, when the casualties are so much higher, this time.

Lord Cameron: What I have described is what happened, which is that it is a decision for the Department of Trade, based on advice from the Foreign Office, and that process is properly gone through.

Q635       Chair: I just find it strange that when there were much lower levels of hostility and activity, you put in place one as Prime Minister, and this time round, despite the circumstances being so much more serious, there has not been a review.

Lord Cameron: I think I have answered the question.

Q636       Brendan O’Hara: Foreign Secretary, have you received any guidance or advice, or received any submissions from the FCDO or Government lawyers, that Israel may be in breach of international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron: Sorry, would you say that again?

Brendan O’Hara: Have you received any legal advice from the FCDO or Government lawyers that Israel may be in breach of international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron: What I have received is advice, as part of this process that I have just described to the Chair, and the advice then was passed on, consistent with that advice, as it were, to the Department of Trade.

Q637       Brendan O’Hara: In terms of Israel’s actions post 7 October—let me ask you personally—have you seen any evidence, been made aware of any evidence or have reasonable grounds to believe that Israel had breached international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron: What I have to do is act on the advice that I am given. That advice is based on what we believe is happening, so we ask a whole series of questions of the Israeli Government about individual actions that are brought to our attention. We receive advice on that, consider that advice, and then pass it on to the Department of Trade for them to make the decision on arms exports. 

Q638       Brendan O’Hara: Okay, I understand your relationship with the Department of trade. What I am asking you, Foreign Secretary, is: have you been made aware, or seen any evidence, or have reasonable grounds to believe, that Israel has breached international humanitarian law?

Chair: So, not arms exports.

Brendan O’Hara: Nothing to do with arms exports; this is about  international humanitarian—

Lord Cameron: I have seen lots of things that have been deeply concerning, and when I do, I ask advice. We often, as part of this—for arms export, we formally have to do that: ask advice about whether that is in fact in breach of international humanitarian law.

Q639       Brendan O’Hara: And in your assessment as Foreign Secretary, has Israel, at any point in its response, breached international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron: My job is not to make the legal adjudication, because I’m not a lawyer; it’s for me to consult my lawyers in the Department and say, “Will you reach a judgment about whether this does breach international humanitarian law?”, based on, as I said, the commitment, the capability and the compliance.

Q640       Brendan O’Hara: That takes me back to my initial question, then. Have your lawyers, in the FCDO or in Government, given you any advice as to whether Israel has breached international humanitarian law? You seem to be saying to us that it has been examined by the FCDO and by Government.

Lord Cameron: I know what you’re asking and I don’t want to—

Q641       Brendan O’Hara: Answer it.

Lord Cameron: Well, I don’t want to be difficult; I don’t want to give an inaccurate answer. I have described to you the process, because it is a process, so of course you see lots of things where you think, “Well, is that in line with international law?” So that is a process that the Foreign Office has to go through—to look at those instances, to put questions, as part of this process, to the Israeli authorities, to consider those answers and then to give me the considered advice: “Given all that, does that mean we think that Israel is in breach of human rights—international humanitarian law?” If the answer is yes, one set of advice goes to the Department of trade; if the answer is no, another set of advice goes. That’s the way it works.

Q642       Brendan O’Hara: Okay. Let me take you away from process to the more specific. About two or three minutes ago, in answer or reply to the Chair, you said, and I quote, “One of the things we’d like the Israelis to do is switch the water back on.” That says that they turned it off. It says that you recognise they have the power to turn it on. Therefore, isn’t turning water off and having the ability to turn it back on, but choosing not to—isn’t that a breach of international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron: Well, it’s just something they ought to do, in my view.

Q643       Brendan O’Hara: Of course they should do it; every human being would say you don’t cut people’s water supply off. But I’m asking you, in your position as Foreign Secretary, around the point of international humanitarian law: if Israel have the power to turn back on the water that they turned off, surely that is a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law.

Lord Cameron: Well, I’m not a lawyer. My view is they ought to switch it on because the north of Gaza—the conflict is now effectively over there, and so getting more water and power into northern Gaza would be a very good thing to do. You don’t have to be a lawyer to make a judgment about that; you just have to be a human being.

Q644       Chair: Forgive me. Sir Philip, under international obligations, do occupying powers have an obligation to provide access to water—yes or no?

Sir Philip Barton: You’re asking me a technical, legal question—

Q645       Chair: Sir Philip, I’m really—forgive me. You and I have played this dance enough times. We all know that under international law there is an obligation for occupying powers to provide water.

Sir Philip Barton: You’re asking me a technical question about occupying powers and what their obligations are in international law. I imagine you’re correct, Chair, but I’m also not a lawyer. I also just would point out I don’t—

Q646       Chair: Sir Philip, just bear in mind we want to have—we have come to such a good place, working with you, because we have the confidence that you do know these details, and that’s what your colleagues say. You know that it is not that you presume I’m correct; that “is” the duty on an occupying power.

Sir Philip Barton: Chair, I think that—

Q647       Chair: Yes.

Sir Philip Barton: I think that is right, so yes, but I would also add that in answering your questions earlier about occupying, occupation—

Q648       Chair: I am not asking you to apply it to Israel. The facts are, though, that they are required to. Lord Cameron, just to clarify, you have received no advice at any point from any Government lawyer that states that Israel is in breach of international humanitarian law.

Lord Cameron: That’s not what I said.

Q649       Chair: That’s why I’m asking you to clarify.

Lord Cameron: Yes, well, I’m going to give exactly the same answer all over again, which is what my role is.

Q650       Chair: I’m not interested in the role; I’m interested in the legal advice you have received.

Lord Cameron: Yes, well, the legal advice I have received is consistent with the fact that we have not changed our export procedures—

Q651       Chair: But it’s not about arms exports; it’s about international humanitarian law being upheld when it comes to aid, when it comes to the way in which airstrikes are being prosecuted, and everything else. We had one question on arms exports; we have moved on from them. In any realm, in any respect, you have never had a piece of paper put in front of you by a Foreign Office lawyer that says that Israel is in breach of its international humanitarian commitments under international humanitarian law.

Lord Cameron: Look, the reason for not answering this question is that I cannot recall every single bit of paper that has been put in front of me. I look at everything. Of course, there are lots of things that have happened where you think, “Surely that was something that shouldn’t have happened.” I don’t want to answer that question because—

Q652       Chair: Forgive me, but in 2013 you were quite happy to say from the Dispatch Box that war crimes had been committed by the Assad regime when it came to chemical weapons use, and two years later you were happy to say that Hamas had committed a war crime when they shot rockets into Israel.

Lord Cameron: Well, I do think there is a difference between using chemical weapons to kill people and Israel fighting a conflict where they are trying to deal with a terrorist force that inflicted an appalling attack on their country.

Q653       Chair: It is a difference in setting or specifics or scale, but not in principle, which was your willingness and ability to determine whether international law had been broken.

Lord Cameron: I am not sure we are going to get a lot further with this.

Chair: That’s for us—

Lord Cameron: If you are asking me whether I am worried that Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law, because particular premises have been bombed, yes, of course I am worried about that. That is why I consult the Foreign Office lawyers when giving this advice on arms exports. If you put it that way, I am happy to say yes, of course, every day I look at what has happened and ask questions about whether it is in line with international humanitarian law—could the Israelis have done better to avoid civilian casualties? Of course I do that.

Chair: We have no doubt that you would ask those questions. It is about the response that you have received.

Q654       Brendan O’Hara: I understand the question that you want to answer, but the question that I want to ask is: have you received legal advice that says that Israel is in breach of international humanitarian law?

Lord Cameron: The short answer to that is no, but I might want to qualify it instantly because it is not fair on the lawyers. Of course, the lawyers give me lots of advice saying, “We’re worried about this event, that event, this event, that event. We’re going to go away and consult the Israeli authorities. We’re going to ask a bunch of questions and then we’re going to give you considered legal advice: given everything, on the basis of capability, commitment and everything else, have they broken international law?” That is why it is not really a yes or no answer, but I am trying to be helpful by explaining how the job works. Does that help at all?

Q655       Brendan O’Hara: No, but unfortunately I think that’s as good as we’re going to get from you.

Finally, Foreign Secretary, what assessment have you made of the Israeli ambassador’s claim that “every school…mosque” and “every second house” in Gaza “has access to tunnels” and “ammunition”? She said that in a television interview. When pressed on whether that means the complete destruction of Gaza by Israel, she replied, “do you have another solution”? In your opinion, was she freelancing when she was speaking to that television interviewer or was she speaking for the Israeli Government?

Lord Cameron: I don’t agree with that approach. If you are asking me—

Q656       Brendan O’Hara: I am not asking you about the approach. I am asking whether you think she was speaking for the Israeli Government or was she freelancing?

Lord Cameron: I don’t know. I would hope that that is not the position of the Israeli Government, because it is the wrong position.

Q657       Bob Seely: Just very quickly on this point—I am not trying to scratch the same sore.

Lord Cameron: I am trying not to be difficult. By the way, none of the individuals released so far live in the UK. No British hostages have been released, as I said. I just did not want to give a wrong answer.

Bob Seely: I don’t want to bang on the same point, but I will ask it in a slightly more productive way. I am not asking you to be a faux lawyer. I am also very aware that in Hamas you have an organisation that does not pretend to do anything by any moral justification that we recognise. It slaughters people and rapes people; its approach to sexual violence is despicable, etc. I also understand that Israel, probably rightly, feels that the world is always very quick to judge its actions and never bothers to judge the actions of those—Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis—who are trying to attack it.

Having said that, reading between the lines, what you seem to be saying is not that you have had lawyers say that they are breaching international law. It is very difficult to argue that, because you have to understand the Israelis’ legal approach to what they are doing and how they judge proportionality. I am assuming, reading between the lines, that your lawyers are saying that potentially the Israelis are vulnerable to a challenge from The Hague court and elsewhere, and that in some of the things they are doing, potentially in relation to proportionality, there is a vulnerability. Is that a better way of asking?

Lord Cameron: Close to that. Look, in all these cases, there is a question mark as to whether it is in breach of international humanitarian law. That is why you have to go back, look at the episode and what, in particular, was bombed, and then ask yourself a bunch of questions, which is what the lawyers do, and they give you that advice. The advice has been, so far, that they have the commitment, the capability and the compliance, but on lots of occasions that is under question. That is hopefully a better way of putting it.

Q658       Bob Seely: There is always a law-governed—

Lord Cameron: There is always a question, as you would expect.

Chair: Bob, I am going to move on to Dan.

Q659       Dan Carden: Foreign Secretary, 10 years ago you were very outspoken on Gaza being what you called an “open-air prison”. I just want to put some of the statistics that I have on the record: 1.9 million people have been displaced, 70% of Gaza’s residential buildings have been destroyed, most schools have been destroyed and most hospitals have been rendered inoperable. This week, the International Criminal Court will hold public hearings on South Africa’s application under obligations relating to the genocide convention. Could you give the Government’s views on that?

Lord Cameron: First of all, on the South Africa case—I think it is to the International Court of Justice rather than the International Criminal Court—I do not think that is helpful. I do not agree with it. I do not think it is right. I do not think we should bandy around terms like genocide in this case; I do not think that is correct. That does not change our long-standing position that, ultimately, it is for the courts to define genocide, not for states. I am very clear about that.

In terms of what I said about Gaza, it has been unsatisfactory for years—the fact that there has not been better access to and from Gaza, and the situation in Gaza has been—

Q660       Dan Carden: It is not for courts to determine, is it? It is for states who are party to the convention.

Lord Cameron: Ultimately, the long-standing position of the British Government on all questions of genocide—Philip will correct me if I have got this wrong—is that it is not for a Government to say, “That is genocide.” It is for a court—the ICJ or the ICC—to determine genocide.

Q661       Dan Carden: So it is not for the UK Government to consider the risk of genocide in any case.

Lord Cameron: Of course, if we want to, as we have on other occasions, put information into a court when they are considering a question, we are at liberty to do that, and we have done that, I think, in the case of what has happened recently in Burma—that predates my time as Foreign Secretary.

But you are asking me specifically about the South African case. Our view is that Israel does have a right to defend itself, must act within international humanitarian law, should avoid civilian casualties, and should do better on that ground, but we do not believe that calling this genocide and claiming that this is genocide is the right approach, and we do not agree with what South Africa is doing.

Q662       Mr Jayawardena: Lord Cameron, I actually agree with you that sometimes it is not about the technical IHL definitions and that it is around that gut feel of, “Is this right or is this wrong?”. So can I pivot to the issue of the West Bank? What is your view of the increase in violence there, and have you had conversations with the Israeli Government to try and reduce it?

Lord Cameron: Yes, I agree with you. I think that what is happening in terms of settler violence is unacceptable. I have raised this, I think, in every conversation I have had with Israeli interlocutors. We have gone one further than that and, working with the Home Office, put in place travel bans on those people responsible for settler violence. We have the opportunity, should we judge it right, to move that from a travel ban up to a full sanction, which obviously includes the travel ban, the asset freeze and other things. We keep a very clear eye on this. It is not right what is happening. As well as being terrible for the Palestinian people that live there, this is, long term, very bad for Israel, because Israel needs, fundamentally, a two-state solution in order for it to have the security it needs. So it needs to make the West Bank a functioning political space.

Q663       Mr Jayawardena: So why are we only seeing escalations in the violence, given that you are making representations and others are making representations? Why is this not working?

Lord Cameron: I think it is a range of things. Because of what happened on 7 October and what has happened subsequently, you have a rise in tensions across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in the West Bank. You have the extreme settler movement, who have been perpetrating these acts. You have some politicians in Israel who do not call them out—indeed, they even support them—and that is why it is very important that proper friends of Israel, including Britain, call this out and are very clear about it.

Q664       Mr Jayawardena: Given that you have announced that you have banned settlers from entering the UK, what would be the trigger to up that to a full sanction? What would be the trigger, in your mind?

Lord Cameron: It is a very good question, and I cannot give you an absolute hard and fast answer. I think there is a sense that if this continues—if it gets worse, if more acts are carried out—we would consider taking the travel ban up to a full sanction.

Q665       Mr Jayawardena: You say “more acts” being carried out. They are being carried out—this is happening all the time. I must press the point.

Lord Cameron: If you are asking for a sort of matrix for the decision, I do not have one, but it is a very good point and I will go away and think about it. But there is no hesitation: our view is that this is not right, and we need to act. You should use your sanctions and deterrents in the smartest way that you can, and we are happy to do that.

Q666       Chair: Very quickly, before Royston takes us on to the wider conflict, you touched earlier on the need for reconstruction in your first answer. Israel has said that it is looking to the EU and US to reconstruct and pay for the reconstruction of Gaza. Can I ask if you agree with that?

Lord Cameron: I think it is going to take a giant international effort, because the level of the destruction is so great. We are going to have to try to bring together a whole group of countries—I know this is something that your Committee has looked at—including the Arab and Muslim states. We have to bring together the main European powers and America into some form of contact group that works on this together. We are going to need as many people as possible to join the effort.

Q667       Chair: Should it not be for Israel, though, to lead on the reconstruction? To go to Ranil’s point, it was able to find $70 million to fund the expansion of illegal settlements over the next year, despite lobbying by this Government to stop that. Surely Israel should be leading on the reconstruction of Gaza.

Lord Cameron: I think it will take more than any one country to do this.

Q668       Chair: Very briefly, you touched on the contact group. Obviously I have been urging the creation of a Palestine contact group. One of those aspects would be, for me, that the priority is track-two diplomacy. We need to get civil society—women, youth and other groups—in the room who are ready to talk about the long-term peace or the “day after”, as His Majesty from Jordan wishes to refer to it. Are we even anywhere close to bringing together track-two diplomacy? That is something that the UK could lead on and could do now.

Lord Cameron: There are a lot of conversations taking place about this. Obviously one of the difficulties is that some countries have been less inclined to talk about it until the conflict is over, but I think you have seen in recent days an Egyptian plan—you have even seen the Israelis talk about what should happen in Gaza after this conflict is over. I think the space is opening up; the conversations are taking place now.

Q669       Royston Smith: Foreign Secretary, thank you for joining us here today. When we started this inquiry it was about the Middle East and North Africa, but it has morphed into something that is—maybe not predominantly, but certainly—Israel and Gaza-related. However, there is a bigger issue, which is why we were looking at the Middle East before 7 October. One of the issues, which I am sure we will come to, is Yemen and how, as the UN penholder, we deal with that and how we are seen to be playing our part. Before we come to that, what is your sense of what is happening in the south of the Red sea, and what are the Government and you, the Foreign Secretary, doing to prevent contagion in the region?

Lord Cameron: I think what is happening in the Red sea is extremely dangerous, in that you have had repeated Houthi attacks upon not just Israeli shipping, as they would claim, but all shipping. You have to in some ways try to separate this from the conflict for a second and think, “Is it acceptable that one of the most important sea lanes in the world has effectively been closed by a group that are unacceptably, illegally and continually attacking shipping?” My answer is no, it is not. That is why we, with others, set up Operation Prosperity Guardian, why we have British destroyers and potentially frigates involved in it, and why you heard the Defence Secretary say so clearly that if this continues, we have to consider what further action could be taken. Of course, no one wants to see escalation of conflict in the Middle East, but it is unacceptable to have the freedom of navigation affected in this way. That is the position that we take.

Q670       Royston Smith: What is your sense of why the Houthis are involving themselves? They would say that it is the Palestinian cause and they feel that they should do what they can to take the side of the Palestinians against what they see as the aggressor: the Israelis.

Lord Cameron: That is exactly what they say. They are also, in some ways, a proxy for Iranian action. That is what they say, but, fundamentally, the effect of what they are doing is to stop the freedom of navigation and the free flow of goods, manufactures, oil and everything else, which is important to countries in the region and in the world. I just do not think we can accept this continued prevention of the freedom of navigation. So that is what they say, but it is illegal and unacceptable and has to stop.

Q671       Royston Smith: That is what they say, but what do you think? Why now? Why would they want to embroil themselves in this?

Lord Cameron: It is a very good question. I think partly it is a sort of competition for attention, for voice, for making them more popular in the world they want to be in by taking action because of what is happening in Gaza. But they need to be told, as they have been told, that this is not a free option and that consequences follow. I think it is actually the first time that British destroyers have shot down a hostile aviation thing in about 30 years. They need to be told that it is unacceptable. Speculating on exactly why they are doing it and why they continue is important, but it is hard to know exactly why.

Q672       Royston Smith: Can we talk about the road map for peace proposed by the Saudi Government? I believe they are in discussions with the Houthis now. Depending on who you talk to, you will find that the Houthis are sighted of the peace proposal and are discussing it with the Saudis, but others in Yemen are being excluded. What is your sense of that? Do you see the same as we have been told by others—that this is turning into a Houthi-Saudi deal, as opposed to a Yemen solution, which may be, in the way that Gaza and Israel may be, a two-state solution?

Lord Cameron: What I see—and I praise the Saudis for doing this—is a genuine attempt at a peace process to bring this long-standing conflict to an end. These processes work only if you include all the relevant participants in them. If you take a step back and ask why we are in this situation, I think there is a good case to be made, if you go back 10 years to when this conflict began—maybe we could apply this to other situations—that, for all the difficulties of dealing with the Houthis, if you leave a significant part of a country out of a peace process, it does not work.

I would applaud the Saudis for what they are doing. I hope this peace process is yielding results. It looks like it is. It looks like they have made real progress. But that does not mean that the Houthis can go about attacking ships in the Red sea. In fact, I think if you asked the Saudis what their view is, they would say that pretty clearly too.

Q673       Royston Smith: Which brings me to the point of why they might be doing it. The argument is that the Houthis are having these discussions with the Saudis, but the south of Yemen is being excluded. Given your point that you cannot have a peace process unless everyone is involved, it looks to me like there may be a flawed process. Of course, we are the penholder. We spoke to the US envoy when we were in Doha a few weeks ago. The UN envoy has just come back from Muscat. Everyone is talking about this, but there are groups of people in Yemen who feel that they have been excluded.

Lord Cameron: You make a good point; let me take that away. I would apply it to Afghanistan and Iraq—to all these situations. Fundamentally, if you want to try to bring peace after conflict, you need to include all the parties to that conflict and all the parties in the country to have the best chance of success.

Q674       Royston Smith: I have one final question, if I may, on a peaceful solution to the region. On the Abraham accords and Saudi normalisation with Israel, do you think that those agreements and arrangements are now in jeopardy because of what is happening in Israel and Gaza?

Lord Cameron: My instinct is that, if you go to the Emirates, Bahrain or Morocco, they are very committed to what they agreed to. They see it as a good advance. It is obviously under some pressure because of local opinion, but I think they are committed to it. I think that, in the medium term, the Saudis would still like to get that back on track. I think there is a genuine view that part of peace for this region is recognition of Israel by these major powers, but you can’t leave the Palestinians out of this equation. You have to have the Palestinians feeling that they can live in dignity and security in the Palestinian territories with a state of their own.

Q675       Royston Smith: When we talk about the fact that it will have to be an international effort to rebuild Gaza, do you think it is incumbent on the Middle Eastern Gulf countries and others to be the largest part of that solution?

Lord Cameron: They obviously have huge capabilities and capacity to do that, but I think it is going to be quite a diplomatic effort to get everybody around the table and to get everybody to contribute, as the Chair rightly pointed out.

Chair: Foreign Secretary, you didn’t touch too much on Iran. Bob, do you want to quickly follow up?

Q676       Bob Seely: Thank you, Chair. Briefly—I know it is a big subject and we are very tight on time—to what extent do you see Iran as an opportunistic manipulator of events, and to what extent do you see it as the prime mover behind what is happening, not only against Israel but against Saudi, using the various proxies that it has, be they the proxies in Iraq, Hezbollah, Hamas or the Houthis?

Lord Cameron: I think it is probably the first of your propositions, in that it is clear that all of these organisations—whether it is Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis or Iran-backed armed groups in Syria and Iraq—have the support of Iran in common, but they have quite a lot of agency to act on their own. I think it is the first of the suggestions you make.

Q677       Bob Seely: And that is the FCDO’s view—that they have agency and they are supported.

Lord Cameron: My view very strongly is that Iran is a malign influence in the region. I said that very clearly in an interview the other day. There is no doubt that it gives weapons, training, ability, money and support to all these groups. We know that. We know that Houthi weapons come from Iran. We know that Hezbollah rockets come from Iran. We know that. But the way you put the question was, do we think that these groups are backed by Iran and manipulated by Iran but, ultimately, able to make some of their own decisions? If that is the way you put it, I would say it is that—yes.

Q678       Dan Carden: This Committee warned against the deprioritising of the Middle East. I wonder whether, on reflection, you regret that there was not a single mention of Palestine or the Middle East peace process in the last integrated review and refresh, and whether you can explain that.

Lord Cameron: The integrated review—and the refresh, actually—was before my time, but I will own up to another sin, if you like. If you go back to 2008, ’09, ’10 onwards, there were some real efforts to get the peace process under way—my predecessor Gordon Brown wrote a brilliant article in The Guardian today about it, and Barack Obama made a huge effort when he was President—but ultimately they kept getting stalled, and Israeli politics kept going in a direction that made it very hard to make progress. I remember something that Obama said to me. I was pushing him and saying, “Come on, Barack; we’ve got to do more, we’ve got to do more,” and he was saying, “Look, David, we can’t want this more than they want it”—more than the Palestinians and the Israelis want it. That is true, but none the less, looking back, it is one of those things where you just wish even more had been done.

Q679       Dan Carden: I am not sure that answers why it has been missed out of the integrated review.

Lord Cameron: As I say, I only joined the Government a month ago, so I can’t answer that question, but it has always been the British Government’s view—it never changed through the change of Prime Ministers—that the two-state solution is the answer to the Israel-Palestine conundrum. That has been the absolutely consistent policy all the way through.

What I was trying to say is that I think there have been moments of great effort and action, and moments when Israeli politics is going the wrong way, the global financial crisis takes over, there are other problems—Iranian mischief rises—and it is harder to get this moving. In my time as Prime Minister, it was very difficult to get this dossier moving. I think, to be fair to my successors, that that has been the case subsequently. Israeli politics has just moved in a completely different direction, where it was hard to find anyone who supported a two-state solution. Hopefully, out of this crisis, we can try to start again to make the long-term argument that the only way you will get true peace and security is the two-state solution, but it will be a hard ask.

Chair: I think a lot of us would agree with the assessment you have just made. This Committee has been very critical of the fact that there was not a single reference to Palestine or the Middle East peace process in the IR or the IR refresh, and the writing was on the wall. In June last year, I gave a speech in which I said we were going to see the Gaza crisis of 2023. That was not because I have a crystal ball but because I listen to our Arab partners. All of us on this Committee feel very strongly that, exactly as per your sentiment, it is vital that we do not allow this time to be the time that we fail; we must move forward.

EDM 254: Short-term medical evacuation of children from Gaza

That this House welcomes the work of Saving Gaza’s Children, an NGO dedicated to supporting the children of Gaza to receive life-saving and time-critical, emergency medical care required as a result of the Israel-Gaza conflict by identifying children in dire need of medical evacuation and securing their evacuation to host states which are currently better equipped to manage their complex and often life-threatening medical needs, liaising directly with Gazan medical teams and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, and working closely with the child’s legal guardian to monitor his or her diagnosis, progress, and prognosis whilst remaining sensitive to the fact that Palestinians feel strongly that their children should return to Palestine and paying special attention to ensuring that children are evacuated through documented safe passages and that all necessary protocols are followed to ensure a child’s safe return with a focus on supporting injured children back into Palestinian society ensuring that they receive all the support they need to live as normal a life as possible; and urges the Government urgently to liaise with the Egyptian and Palestinian Health Ministries to assist NGOs such as Saving Gaza’s Children to create a short-term medical evacuation programme from Gaza to the UK much like the scheme that worked effectively to support Ukrainian children.

EDM 255 – Government legal advice on Gaza

That this House understands that questions have been raised internationally about the legality of the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza; recognises that in November 2023 UN experts raised the alarm about the risk of genocide in Gaza; highlights the UN General Secretary’s reasons for invoking Article 99 that there is a high risk of total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, which would have devastating consequences; further highlights his comments to the Security Council that international humanitarian law includes the duty to protect civilians and to comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution and that the laws of war also demand that civilians’ essential needs must be met, including by facilitating the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian relief; notes the Spanish Prime Minister’s comments that he has serious doubts that Israel is complying with international humanitarian law; further notes the letter signed by prominent Israeli public figures to the Attorney General in December 2023 which said there have been explicit calls to commit atrocious crimes against millions of civilians, providing evidence of the discourse of annihilation, expulsion and revenge; acknowledges the case South Africa has brought to the International Court of Justice claiming Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is tantamount to genocidal actions; and calls on the Government to publish in full the legal advice it has received from its law officers regarding the situation in Gaza, particularly in the run up to UN votes, and the legality of the UK export licensing of arms to the Israel.

President, let me start with the humanitarian crisis. The 21 Dec IPC
[Infection Prevention and Control] report records that more people are in
‘phase five’ famine in Gaza than in the rest of the world combined.
Yesterday, I spoke to the Save the Children Country Director for the OPTs
[Occupied Palestinian Territories]. He told me that four in 10 of those killed
in Gaza so far are children. That is close to 8,500 children dead. For those
injured and surviving, nearly two thirds of homes and schools are damaged
or destroyed. Many more will die from attacks, from disease, from famine if
we do not act to stop this humanitarian catastrophe.
And so, with the adoption of resolution 2720, this Council sent an important
signal of our commitment to support the UN to deliver desperately needed
aid. And we very much welcome the appointment of Sigrid Kaag as UN
Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza. Our own
appointment of a UK Representative for Humanitarian Affairs in the OPTs
underscores our commitment to address the humanitarian crisis.
Second, on security, President, we remain resolute in our commitment to
Israel’s security and the need to address the threat from Hamas. But too
many civilians have been killed. Israel must comply with International
Humanitarian Law and differentiate clearly between terrorists and civilians.
The situation in the Occupied West Bank underlines the urgent need to
make progress towards peace. The UK is clear that Israel must stop settler
violence immediately and hold the perpetrators accountable. We also
continue to call on Israel to adhere to their commitments and cease all

settlement activities in the OPTs. Approving further settlement serves only
to raise tensions in the West Bank.
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should demonstrate, through their
policies, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution. It is vital we all
work together to deliver peace, dignity and security for Israelis and
Palestinians alike. And in this respect I very much welcome Dr [Marwan]
Muasher’s(1) thoughtful briefing earlier.
Third, President, on the wider risk in the region, we are acutely aware of
the conflict’s potential to spill over to the wider region. We are engaging at
the most senior levels to caution against further escalation along the Blue
Line. A full-blown conflict between Israel and Hizballah would be
catastrophic for Lebanon and the region.
We also condemn illegal and unjustified attacks on commercial shipping in
the Red Sea by Houthi militants. These attacks are harming the global
economy, threatening regional security and risking innocent lives.
In conclusion, President, in resolution 2720 we underscored the need for
conditions that would allow for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. These
include the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by
Hamas and an end to the threat posed to Israel by rocket attacks and other
forms of terrorism. Sustainable peace and security for both the Israeli and
Palestinian people requires that we then redouble our efforts to deliver a
new political horizon towards the delivery of two states: a secure and stable
Israel, with a viable and independent Palestine – living side by side in
peace and security.
(1) Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian Foreign Minister, now with the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, addressed the Security
Council prior to this session, as did the Israeli human rights lawyer
Itay Ephstain, who is a special adviser to the Norwegian Refugee

The UK supports Security Council resolution 2720 on aid to Gaza

Today, 22 December 2023, the UK voted in favour of United Nations Security Council resolution 2720 calling for expanded humanitarian access in Gaza.

The Foreign Secretary in El Arish, Egypt on 21 December 2023, meeting those involved in delivering UK aid to the people of Gaza.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said:

It is good news that the UN has come together to back a resolution to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The UK is doing everything it can to get more aid in, as I saw when I visited Al Arish in Egypt, near the border with Gaza, this week. People across Gaza urgently need food, medicine and shelter. We have consistently argued for more aid and called on Israel to open more border crossings.

As well as the need for expanded humanitarian access, the UN resolution today demands the immediate and unconditional release of hostages. This is vital.

Crucially, the resolution also calls for steps towards a sustainable ceasefire. This is an outcome that I advocated for last week along with the German Foreign Minister and strongly think is the right approach.

A sustainable ceasefire must mean that Hamas is no longer there, able to threaten Israel with rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism.

This resolution repeats so many of the points we have been making: the importance of complying with international humanitarian law. The need to reduce civilian casualties and it also backs a two-state solution that would be the best long-term guarantee of security and stability for both Israel and the Palestinian people.

We thank the UAE for their leadership on this resolution.

It has been a difficult process to reach agreement within the UN but there is now greater unity and purpose about what needs to happen to relieve the humanitarian crisis, and to start working towards the sustainable ceasefire that the British government has argued for.

Layla Moran

(Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)

(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister if he will make a statement on the situation in Israel and Gaza.

The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
(Mr Andrew Mitchell)

The whole House will be gravely concerned about the desperate situation in Gaza. It cannot continue, and we are deploying all our diplomatic resources, including in the United Nations, to help find a viable solution. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her urgent question and for the private messages from Gaza that she has made available to me, and I look forward to meeting her in the Foreign Office tomorrow.

The scale of civilian deaths and displacement in Gaza is shocking. I was particularly disturbed to hear about the situation of civilians trapped in the Holy Family church complex in Gaza City, the lack of water and food, and reports of sniper fire causing civilian deaths inside the complex. Although Israel has the right to defend itself against terror, restore its security and bring the hostages home, it must abide by international law and take all possible measures to protect civilians.

No one wants to see this conflict go on for a moment longer than necessary. We recognise the sheer scale of the suffering, and are appalled at the impact on civilians. We urgently need more humanitarian pauses to get all the hostages out and lifesaving aid in. We welcome the recent opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing to help achieve that, but it is not enough. Our immediate priorities are to secure the release of British hostages, to show solidarity with Israel in defending itself against Hamas while complying with international humanitarian law, and to call for such pauses, both at the UN and directly with Israel, to ensure that emergency aid can be distributed in Gaza, including fuel, water and medicine.

The Foreign Secretary will discuss the situation in Gaza with regional leaders this week in his visit to Egypt and Jordan. The Government have recently announced an additional £30 million of British aid, tripling the UK aid budget for the Occupied Palestinian Territories this financial year. To date, we have delivered 74 tonnes of aid, but there is still more to do. Casualty numbers are far too high, and we are calling on Hamas to release each and every kidnapped hostage. We are also actively exploring other routes for aid into Gaza, including maritime options.

Of course, as both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have said, ultimately this must end. We of course want to see an end to the fighting, but it must be a sustainable ceasefire, meaning that Hamas must stop launching rockets into Israel and must release the hostages. More than 130 hostages are still unaccounted for. They must be released immediately and returned to their families. To achieve long-term peace in the middle east, a viable two-state solution is needed. Leaving Hamas in power in Gaza would be a permanent roadblock on the path to that; no one can be expected to live alongside a terrorist organisation committed to their destruction and dedicated to repeating those attacks.


The foreign secretary and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock say Israel has a right to eliminate the threat posed by Hamas, but that too many civilians have been killed

Lord Cameron has joined forces with his German counterpart to call for a “sustainable ceasefire” in the Middle East and warn that “too many civilians have been killed” in the Hamas-Israel conflict.

In a marked change of tone by the government which piles pressure on the Israeli government to end the bloodshed, the foreign secretary has united with Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, to demand “a sustainable ceasefire, leading to a sustainable peace”.

In a joint article, they write: “The sooner it comes, the better. The need is urgent.”

Separately, the defence secretary Grant Shapps in an interview with The Sunday Times gave his backing to the approach, which he said would lead to “hostages released, rockets stop flowing and there’s actually a political process in place to make sure that we get to the day after”.

In a sign of the increasing anxiety within the government about the number of civilian casualties, Shapps added: “I’m very concerned about potentially more people dying through illness and sickness than die through even the effects of the kinetic action of the war.”

The comments signal a shift in approach to the Hamas-Israel conflict by the government, which has previously only given its support for a “humanitarian pause” to allow for the release of Hamas-held hostages and for aid to enter Gaza.

The government’s position is still short of calling for an “immediate ceasefire”, which it argues would freeze the conflict and leave Hamas in control of Gaza, ignoring the group’s acts of terrorism and the fact it continues to hold civilian hostages.

But the change of tone, which echoes a shift in the United States, is clearly intended for the Israelis, whose offensive in Gaza has caused an escalating humanitarian crisis and led to the deaths of more than 18,000 Palestinians. President Biden last week warned President Netanyahu that Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza was eroding international support for the war against Hamas.

Cameron and Baerbock write: “Israel will not win this war if their operations destroy the prospect of peaceful coexistence with Palestinians. They have a right to eliminate the threat posed by Hamas. But too many civilians have been killed.”

The article, published in The Sunday Times and Welt am Sonntag in Germany, also criticises the “hateful acts” of armed Israeli settlers who have driven Palestinians from their homes.

Cameron and Baerbock also call for an intervention by Arab countries to end the conflict and press for a long-term peace deal, suggesting they might have to help find a new generation of Palestinian leaders prepared to talk peace.

In their joint article, Cameron and Baerbock write: “Our Arab partners, in particular, have a crucial role to play in this. They have shown strong humanitarian commitment and they have even more political weight to bring to the table.”

Their subtle but significant shift will create a new challenge for Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, who has faced intense criticism from within his own party over his opposition to a ceasefire.

Last week the UK and Germany chose to abstain on a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. A total of 153 countries voted for a ceasefire, with only ten member states, among them the US, voting against the resolution. Twenty-three abstained.

Cameron and Baerbock seek to explain why an immediate ceasefire is not the right answer. However, they do not offer a clear solution for how they intend to deal with Hamas. They write: “Only extremists like Hamas want us stuck in an endless cycle of violence, sacrificing more innocent lives for their fanatical ideology. But our goal cannot simply be an end to fighting today. It must be peace lasting for days, years, generations. We therefore support a ceasefire, but only if it is sustainable.

“We know many in the region and beyond have been calling for an immediate ceasefire. We recognise what motivates these heartfelt calls. It is an understandable reaction to such intense suffering and we share the view that this conflict cannot drag on and on. That is why we supported the recent humanitarian pauses. We saw at the end of November: pauses work. So we are pushing the diplomatic effort to agree further pauses, to get more aid in and more hostages out.

“But let us be clear. We do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate ceasefire, hoping it somehow becomes permanent, is the way forward. It ignores why Israel is forced to defend itself: Hamas barbarically attacked Israel and still fires rockets to kill Israeli citizens every day. Hamas must lay down its arms.”

Cameron and Baerbock claim they are now focused on a three-pronged strategy. First, they support Israel’s right to defend itself, but warn: “The Israeli government should do more to discriminate sufficiently between terrorists and civilians, ensuring its campaign is targeted on Hamas leaders and operatives.”

Netanyahu is already facing protests at home after demonstrators took to the streets to share their anguish and fury at the accidental killing of three civilian hostages shot dead by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza.

The second objective of the Cameron-Baerbock plan is to get more humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza to help more “ordinary Palestinians”.

“It breaks our heart to see children in the rubble of their destroyed homes, not knowing where to find food or water, not knowing where their parents are,” they write.

Their final goal is work towards a political solution for the region which delivers “long-term security for both peoples”. They write: “A two-state solution requires both sides to feel safe living side by side. The Palestinians need a team of leaders who can give them the security and good governance they deserve … During such a crisis, it can seem difficult to think of such a seemingly distant endpoint. But we must. We want fighting to cease not just today, but in the future. We want an end to the killing not just today, but in the future. We want peace for Israeli and Palestinian children, today and in the future. The tragic deaths of so many compel us to act today, focused on how we get to that goal in the future.”

Shapps claimed Hamas could play no part in the political solution for the region, adding: “Hamas pledged not just to wipe out Israel as its neighbour but to murder every Jew in the world, regardless of where they were. That is their guiding principle. So this is an organisation that is in a different league and … so they cannot be part of the solution.”

He argued that the conflict had created new momentum for a permanent peace deal. “If any good can come out of extreme bad, it’s that the world spent too long just putting this in the ‘too difficult to resolve’ box,” he said. “Now, I think, what’s happened does mean that there needs to be a concerted effort internationally to get this resolved and get proper leadership in. And there are a lot of different discussions about where that can come from.

“I would have thought that the only solutions available would be … one, Palestinians running their own territory; two, Arab states involved, because I think this has to be regionally led; and three, a lot of international work to pull that all together, to orchestrate it, to get the different factions, bodies, organisations, the countries aligned. And none of that is going to be easy.”

The UK and partners call on Israel to take immediate and concrete steps to tackle record high settler violence in the occupied West Bank.


Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom call on Israel to take immediate and concrete steps to tackle record high settler violence in the occupied West Bank.

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom express their grave concern about the record number of attacks by extremist settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. Since the start of October, settlers have committed more than 343 violent attacks, killing 8 Palestinian civilians, injuring more than 83, and forcing 1026 Palestinians from their homes.

We strongly condemn the violent acts committed by extremist settlers, which are terrorising Palestinian communities. We reiterate our position that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and remind Israel of its obligations under international law, in particular Article 49 of Geneva Convention IV.

This rise in extremist settler violence committed against Palestinians is unacceptable. Israel, as the occupying power, must protect the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank. Those responsible for the violence must be brought to justice. Israel’s failure to protect Palestinians and prosecute extremist settlers has led to an environment of near complete impunity in which settler violence has reached unprecedented levels. This undermines security in the West Bank and the region and threatens prospects for a lasting peace.

While we welcomed the Government of Israel’s statement on this issue on 9 November where it conveyed that action would be taken against violent perpetrators, proactive steps must now be taken to ensure the effective and immediate protection of Palestinian communities. Words are important, but must now be translated into action.

Extremist settlers, by targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, are undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel must take stronger action to stop settler violence and hold the perpetrators accountable. We are banning those responsible for settler violence from entering the UK to make sure our country cannot be a home for people who commit these intimidating acts.


A statement following the House of Bishops meeting of December 12, 2023:
Dereliction in a bomb site in Gaza WAFA/APAimages

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ this Advent, we are dismayed that the place of our saviour’s birth is once again wracked by violence, death and destruction.

We grieve that innocent children have been disproportionately affected by this conflict.

Of the 1,300 people killed in the abhorrent terrorist attacks of Hamas on 7 October, 33 were children. Of the 250 hostages taken, 34 were children. In Israel’s exercising its right to self-defence, more than 18,000 people have reportedly been killed, over 40 per cent of whom were children. Thousands more have been injured.

We re-affirm our position of 31 October 2023 that there is no equivalence between the atrocities of Hamas against Israeli civilians, and the right and duty of Israel to defend itself. We also want to be clear that we do not believe that the devastating loss of civilian life and humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza can be morally justified.

The nature and scale of death and destruction we are witnessing across the region is horrific and is inconsistent with the obligations of international humanitarian law as affirmed most recently by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2712 (15 November 2023).

This war has claimed too many lives and destroyed too many homes. The extension of battle to Southern Gaza will only compound the existing humanitarian catastrophe. We appeal for the bloodshed and destruction to stop. An alternative strategy needs to be found that closes down on attacks on Israel from Gaza and ends the violence and blockade undertaken by Israel.

The recent truce (24-30 November 2023) provided a glimmer of hope amidst so much darkness. We were encouraged as hostage families were reunited, civilians found respite from bombardment, and some of the sick and injured found life-saving care and some supplies reached those most in need.

Intensified diplomatic efforts should seek to secure the release of all remaining hostages, the protection of civilians and full humanitarian access to Gaza, alongside steps to establish a reinvigorated political track to address the overarching conflict.

Israel’s security cannot be achieved by continuing with a system of occupation that denies millions of Palestinians their rights and freedoms. The ongoing settler violence in the West Bank, which has resulted in the death to date of 8 Palestinians including one child, is a matter of grave concern as is the fact that since 7 October over 250 Palestinians, including over 60 children have been killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank. There has been much damage to Palestinian homes, farms and schools by settlers without the necessary restraint and prosecution by the Israeli authorities.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is more than another regional conflict but one with both international and domestic resonances. The current war in Gaza risks sowing the seeds of the next several generations of vengeance and violence unless it is resolved equitably now. For this reason, we call on the British Government to appoint a dedicated Minister or Peace Envoy for the Middle East to work with other nations to focus diplomatic efforts and to signal a long term commitment to support any future peace process.

We ask that the Government, as with the US Administration, act to deny visas for travel to any one deemed to be committing acts of violence or undermining peace and security in the West Bank, particularly against Palestinians.

In our communities there is no place for either antisemitism or Islamophobia. It is unacceptable that children fear going to school because they will be spat at, shouted at and hated for no other reason than that they are Muslim or Jewish. We should not impute to children here that for which they cannot be held responsible in Israel-Palestine.

We condemn the fresh growth of antisemitism in Europe, a shameful feature of our Western Christian history that needs to be constantly rebuked. In schools, universities, on streets and in places of work and worship, antisemitism has been the root of so much racism. Once one group is allowed to be attacked, merely for religion, race or heritage it seems to open the gates of hell to all other forms of hatred.

We condemn all those hateful voices stoking prejudice against anyone, for any reason and call on the church to walk alongside those from different communities. Let us never stand silently by, but at whatever risk stand with those who suffer such hatreds.

But more than anything we ask that this Advent, parishes, chaplaincies and all places of worship pray for peace, for wisdom, for justice, and for hope as we give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ and God coming to dwell with us amid our pain and joy. As each household or gathering comes together at Christmas, give thanks for what we have and pray for the Holy Land and for our brothers and sisters in Christ who live there.

We also warmly encourage support for the Archbishops’ appeal for the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza.

The House of Bishops

Dan Carden Labour, Liverpool, Walton

To ask the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, pursuant to the Answer of 27 November 2023 to Question 2953 on Israel: Palestinians, what assessment he has made of the potential impact of the UK formally recognising a State of Palestine on the probability of a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being reached in the form of a two-state solution; and what criteria the Government uses to determine (a) when a political solution has been reached and (b) whether to formally recognise a State of Palestine.

David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The UK is committed to making progress towards a two-state solution. We believe that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between Israelis and Palestinians, supported by the international community. To prevent further conflict and terrorism, there must be a political solution which provides justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot end the occupation; without a negotiated settlement, the occupation and the problems that come with it will continue. The Prime Minister has pledged to work together with our partners to redouble efforts towards this conclusion, focussing on the provision of serious, practical and enduring support needed to bolster the Palestinian Authority.


The lengthy debate opened with:

David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 3:30, 11 December 2023

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs if he will make a statement on the international diplomacy surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.

Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The Government are undertaking extensive and global diplomatic engagement to get much greater aid into Gaza, support British nationals and the safe return of hostages, and prevent dangerous regional escalation. Days after Hamas’s brutal attack, the then Foreign Secretary was in Israel to see for himself the devastation wrought by this heinous act of terrorism, and his successor visited in late November to continue dialogue with Israeli leaders. Last week the Prime Minister discussed the latest efforts to free hostages with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and stressed the need to take greater care to protect civilians in Gaza. Two days later, the Foreign Secretary discussed the future of the middle east peace process with the US Secretary of State in Washington.

The situation in Gaza cannot continue, and we are deploying all our diplomatic resources, including in the United Nations, to help to find a viable solution. The scale of civilian deaths and displacement in Gaza is shocking. Although Israel has the right to defend itself against terror, restore its security and bring the hostages home, it must abide by international law and take all possible measures to protect civilians. We have called for further and longer humanitarian pauses. It is imperative that we increase the flow of aid into Gaza, but as we have said at the UN, calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and continues to hold civilian hostages.

We remain committed to making progress towards a two-state solution. Britain’s long-standing position on the middle east peace process is clear: we support a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.

The rest is well worth reading for a vartiety of views and the link can be found at the top of this post.

The Foreign Secretary has given a statement following the agreement reached by Israel and Hamas for a coordinated release of hostages and pause in fighting.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron said:

This agreement is a crucial step towards providing relief to the families of the hostages and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

I urge all parties to ensure the agreement is delivered in full. Of course, 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. We have 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 UK 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.


I travelled first to Israel. It is a nation in mourning, but it is also a nation under attack. The violence against Israel did not end on 7 October. Hundreds of rockets are launched at its towns and cities every day, and Hamas still hold around 200 hostages, including British citizens. In Jerusalem, I met some of the relatives, who are suffering unbearable torment. Their pain will stay with me for the rest of my days. I am doing everything in my power, and working with all our partners, to get their loved ones home. In my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog, I told them once again that we stand resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror, and I stressed again the need to act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians. It was a message delivered by a close friend and ally. I say it again: we stand with Israel.

I recognise that the Palestinian people are suffering terribly. Over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in this conflict. They are also the victims of Hamas, who embed themselves in the civilian population. Too many lives have already been lost, and the humanitarian crisis is growing. I went to the region to address these issues directly. In Riyadh, and then Cairo, I met individually with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Saudi Arabia; the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; President Sisi in Egypt; and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. These were further to my meetings with the King of Jordan last week and calls with other leaders, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary’s extensive travel in the region.

There are three abiding messages from all these conversations. First, we must continue working together to get more humanitarian support into Gaza. The whole House will welcome the limited opening of the Rafah crossing. It is important progress and testament to the power of diplomacy, but it is not enough. We need a constant stream of aid pouring in, bringing the water, food, medicine and fuel that is so desperately needed, so we will keep up the diplomatic pressure. We have already committed £10 million of extra support to help civilians in Gaza, and I can announce today that we are going further. We are providing an additional £20 million of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, more than doubling our previous support to the Palestinian people. There are major logistical and political challenges to delivering this aid, which I discussed with President Sisi. My right hon. Friend the Development Minister is leading an effort to ensure the maximum amount of aid is pre-positioned, with UK support ready to deliver. We are also working intensively to ensure that British nationals trapped in Gaza are able to leave through the Rafah crossing when it properly reopens.

Secondly, this is not a time for hyperbole and simplistic solutions. It is a time for quiet and dogged diplomacy that recognises the hard realities on the ground and delivers help now, and we have an important role to play. In all my meetings, people were clear that they value Britain’s engagement. The UK’s voice matters. We have deep ties across the region—ties of defence, trade and investment, but also of history. President Abbas pointed to that history—not the British mandate in Palestine or the Balfour declaration, but the UK’s efforts over decades to support the two-state solution.

Thirdly, growing attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, rising tensions on the west bank, and missiles and drones launched from Yemen show that some are seeking escalation, so we need to invest more deeply in regional stability and in the two-state solution. Last night, I spoke to the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. We are all determined to prevent escalation. That is why I am deploying RAF and Royal Navy assets, monitoring threats to regional security and supporting humanitarian efforts. Our support for a two-state solution is highly valued across the region, but it cannot just be a clichéd talking point to roll out at times like this. The truth is that, in recent years, energy has moved into other avenues such as the Abraham accords and normalisation talks with Saudi Arabia. We support those steps absolutely and believe that they can bolster wider efforts, but we must never lose sight of how essential the two-state solution is. We will work with our international partners to bring renewed energy and creativity to that effort. It will rely on establishing more effective governance for Palestinian territories in Gaza and the west bank. It will also mean challenging actions that undercut legitimate aspirations for Palestinian statehood.

Mr Speaker, Hamas care more about their paymasters in Iran than the children they hide behind. So let me be clear: there is no scenario where Hamas can be allowed to control Gaza or any part of the Palestinian territories. Hamas is a threat not only to Israel, but to many others across the region. All the leaders I met agree that this is a watershed moment. It is time to set the region on a better path.

I also want to say a word about the tone of the debate. When things are so delicate, we all have a responsibility to take additional care in the language we use, and to operate on the basis of facts alone. The reaction to the horrific explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was a case in point. As I indicated last week, we have taken care to look at all the evidence currently available, and I can now share our assessment with the House. On the basis of the deep knowledge and analysis of our intelligence and weapons experts, the British Government judge that the explosion was likely caused by a missile, or part of one, that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel. The misreporting of that incident had a negative effect in the region, including on a vital US diplomatic effort, and on tensions here at home. We need to learn the lessons and ensure that in future there is no rush to judgment.

We have seen hate on our streets again this weekend. We all stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people—that is the message I brought to President Abbas—but we will never tolerate antisemitism in our country. Calls for jihad on our streets are a threat not only to the Jewish community but to our democratic values, and we expect the police to take all necessary action to tackle extremism head on.

This a moment for great care and caution, but also for moral clarity. Hope and humanity must win out against the scourge of terrorism and aggression. The 7 October attack was driven by hatred, but it was also driven by Hamas’s fear that a new equilibrium might be emerging in the middle east, one that would leave old divisions behind and offer hope of a better, more secure, more prosperous way forward. It is the same motivation that drives Putin’s war in Ukraine—the fear of Ukraine’s emergence as a modern, thriving democracy, and the desire to pull it back into some imperialist fantasy of the past. Putin will fail, and so will Hamas. We must keep alive that vision of a better future, against those who seek to destroy it. Together with our partners, that is what we will do, and I commend this statement to the House.


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