There are several articles about the crisis on the Campaign Responses page of my website. They are grouped together: the first one is at https://www.Gaza: Calls for Ceasefire and UK Position | The Rt. Hon. Craig Whittaker.
I join the Government in utterly condemning the appalling attacks on Israel by Hamas. The UK stands resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror, while highlighting the need to act in accordance with international humanitarian law. My thoughts are with all those affected by the fighting.
The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy, and the UK Government has repeatedly stressed that Israel must take every precaution to minimise civilian casualties. We must remember that this tragic war would not be happening were it not for the terrorist atrocities carried out by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on 7th October.
The fact is that Hamas is a genocidally antisemitic movement which seeks not just the destruction of the State of Israel but also to wage war against all Jews. The events of October 7th in which babies, children, pregnant women, old people, disabled people and many others were raped, butchered (literally in many cases), burnt alive and decapitated because they were Jews make Hamas’ genocidal intent very clear. More Jews were murdered on that day than on any day since the end of the Holocaust.
In addition to those murdered by Hamas, the terrorists kidnapped about 240 people, among them 40 children, one of them a baby of ten months. The Government believes that three UK citizens are being held in Gaza. Hamas must release all the hostages left alive without delay; the UK Government will, of course, do all it can for the Britons among them, as it has for UK passport holders resident in or visiting Gaza and trapped by the fighting.
It is also the case, very sadly, that Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority which governs the West Bank, has a long history of expressing views that are clearly antisemitic and which verge on holocaust denial.
The UK recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and supports a lasting solution for Israelis and Palestinians alike. However, Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their aspirations; it only offers more terror and more bloodshed. I support Israel’s right to defend itself: to retaliate against Hamas; take back the hostages; deter further incursions; and strengthen its long-term security.
One way of reducing civilian casualties is to warn and encourage civilians to move away from areas of intended military action. Israel has rightly advised Gaza civilians to move out of the area of intended ground operations in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the Israeli Defence Forces warn Gazan civilians of impending air strikes by phone, text, leaflets and other methods. Hamas tells those civilians – their own people – to ignore those messages.
The problem Israel faces is that Hamas embeds itself and its armaments amongst the civilians in Gaza, using them – entirely deliberately - as human shields. Hamas has thereby imposed a hideous logic on the crisis whereby, given this strategy, a war crime in itself, any lawful operation to eliminate Hamas will inevitably cause death and injuries to Gaza civilians and damage to civilian property. No-one has suggested any alternative other than that Israel’s people must just continue to suffer such attacks and submit to never-ending terror.
Turning to the calls for the UK to push for a ceasefire, the Government is working via all diplomatic channels—bilaterally and collectively in the region—to ensure that this conflict, which has cost so many lives already, can be brought to a halt.
However, the reality is that Hamas have no interest in a ceasefire and, as matters stand, would simply use one to regroup and prepare to inflict more atrocities on Israeli civilians, particularly Jews. They have no interest in a peaceful resolution, have never attempted to engage in a two-state solution and have made every attempt to collapse any peace process.
Indeed, senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Lebanese television that ‘We will repeat the October 7th attack, time and again, until Israel is annihilated.’
Indeed, Israel has rejected allegations of ‘collective punishment’ in response to it withholding water and energy supplies to Gaza. Israel has declared and notified its blockade to all states, and has specified the commencement, duration, location, and extent of the blockade and the period in which to leave the blockaded area - in accordance with international law.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, expelled 8,000 Israeli citizens who had settled there and handed the territory over to the Palestinians, complete with advanced infrastructure. In 2007 Hamas seized power, murdered its Palestinian political opponents, wrecked much of the infrastructure and began using Gaza as a launchpad for its terrorist campaign against Israel. In response, Israel and Egypt imposed restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza. Despite Hamas’ attacks on its citizens, Israel continued to provide electricity, fuel, water and regular shipments of aid to Gaza as part of its humanitarian efforts. Egypt, which also shares a border with Gaza, shares Israel’s concerns about Hamas yet has not provided even a fraction of the aid supplied by Israel.
Throughout the present crisis, Israel has been supporting efforts to facilitate aid to Gaza and it is welcome that it is entering via Egypt. It should be noted that Article 23 of the 4th Geneva Convention only requires that Israel facilitates the passage of food and medicine via third parties if such goods can be reliably delivered without diversion to military combatants.
Israel has legitimate concerns over the misuse of aid. Sadly, Hamas has a documented history of exploiting humanitarian aid to smuggle in weapons and dual-use items for its terror infrastructure (for example, component parts for rocket manufacturing). Hamas has published footage of the excavation of EU funded water pipework for the construction of rockets to be launched against Israel and recently the terror group reportedly stole 24,000 litres of fuel and medical supplies for its military efforts from a UN aid refugee agency. Hamas has also repeatedly attacked with rockets Israel’s Ashkelon power station which provides energy to Gaza, and it deliberately attacked and damaged Israel’s humanitarian crossing points into Gaza on 7th October. It is a sad reality that Hamas has consistently prioritised conflict against Israel over the wellbeing of Gazan citizens since violently seizing power in 2007.
The lesson the great majority of Jews take from their millennia-long history of persecution is that the only guarantee that they can survive as a people is the possession of a state of their own – in their historic homeland - which can bring, if necessary, overwhelming force to bear against those who seek to destroy them. A reasonable deduction from the Hamas pogrom of 7th October, in line with the organisation’s entire history and declared intentions, is that it seeks to perpetrate a second holocaust.
The first obligation of any government is to protect its citizens. After the mass and indiscriminate slaughter on 7 October 2023 launched by a terrorist organisation from an adjacent territory, Israel is entitled under international law, in self-defence, to enter that territory to dismantle that organisation to prevent it from ever repeating its murderous aims. This includes killing or capturing its members and destroying its capacity to manufacture, acquire or deploy weapons of war or destruction, its facilities, structures and buildings, wherever they may be found. That is Israel’s legitimate military objective. The achievement of that objective would have the additional advantage in the long term of reducing the suffering of Gaza’s residents who have had to endure rule by a terrorist organisation which seized power in 2007 and has never since held an election.
If anyone has evidence that the Hamas leadership – and, more importantly, their paymasters in Tehran – are willing to drop their murderous antisemitism, their commitment to destroying Israel and their terrorist strategy and structures, and are ready to enter negotiations with Israel in good faith, no-one will want to hear it more than the Israelis.
The UK was already providing significant aid to the Palestinian people, but in light of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza, the Government has increased its humanitarian support by £30 million, more than doubling this year's existing aid commitment (£27 million). FCDO Ministers are now urgently exploring with partners measures to help increase the flow of humanitarian support, including humanitarian pauses. To support regional stability, Ministers have increased our military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, deploying a Royal Navy task group and bolstering our forces in Cyprus. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have also been engaging extensively with their international counterparts, to prevent dangerous escalation of this devastating conflict.
Looking ahead, the UK Government believes that it is clearer than ever how essential a two-state solution is, and I welcome the UK's work with international partners to bring renewed energy to this effort.
I am following this fast-moving situation closely. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP