I have written previously on a number of issues relating to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The ongoing situation remains tragic. Israel has suffered the worst terror attack in its history at the hands of Hamas, and Palestinian civilians in Gaza are experiencing a humanitarian disaster. My thoughts are with all those affected in so many ways. The effects of this conflict go way beyond the geographic location.
As I said in my previous article, Israel has the right to defend itself. We cannot lose sight of how this conflict started back in October 2023, and the ability to end it lies in the hands of the same people.
In this article you will find my response to the most recent questions raised with me. They are not in any particular order, and I may not have responded to every point in the various emails that I have received, many of which continue to be standardised. However I have addressed the key issues and will not be commenting further on theses issues.
Gaza and the propensity to engage in a ceasefire.
Calls for a sustainable ceasefire are understandable, and this would be most desirable. However the necessary conditions need to be in place to ensure that a ceasefire will not collapse within a few days.
The idea that Israel can enter into a ceasefire with a terrorist organisation such as Hamas is simply not realistic. Hamas has all the habits of a standard Middle Eastern terrorist organisation, and it should be attacked by all democracies for having these habits, which include ISIS style approaches to individuals. A sustainable ceasefire must mean that Hamas is no longer there, able to threaten Israel with rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism.
The difficult reality is that Hamas has always exploited ceasefires to rearm. It is clear that they have kept on acquiring missiles from the number they have launched. There is no evidence that it will behave any differently with any other agreement. There is genuine concern that unconditional ceasefire now would simply allow Hamas to once again regroup, and the violent cycle will continue for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Although much has happened since Hamas’s barbaric 7th October attack on Israel, this has to be the starting point. The Iran-backed terror group butchered their way through southern Israel – from the peaceful agricultural kibbutzim along the border, through to major cities miles from the border, like Sderot, leaving the nation traumatised. I have visited Sderot on a number of occasions. It has the unfortunate nickname of being the ‘bomb shelter capital of the world’ – bomb shelters appear at most street corners and bus stops in the town. Even the schools and train stations have been designed as large bomb shelters. During my previous visits I have seen the remains of some of the thousands of rockets Hamas has launched at Sderot, where residents only have a 15 second warning to take shelter. These rockets used to be displayed at Sderot’s police station, which was destroyed during Hamas’s rampage on 7th October, leaving many police officers and civilians killed.
The huge loss of life on both sides is absolutely devastating, but in the end the ball is in the court of Hamas to cease fire. Israel cannot live under the constant threat of a barrage of rockets from Gaza.
Going forward I fully support the work that the Government continues to do with its partners towards a two-state solution, which remains the only viable long-term solution.
Genocide in the Middle East.
Fears that Israel is committing Genocide are misplaced. The real fear of genocide can be found in the Hamas Charter of 1988, in which the group commits to the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. This is confirmed in papers found on the bodies of a number of combatants killed. These point to the need for Hamas to kill residents of Israel, to take life, and to accept financial incentive for so doing. Although in 2017 Hamas published a revised charter, it did not change the fundamental basis for the original charter, and current actions confirm this.
The attack on Israel last year, which saw Hamas committing the worst massacre against Jews since the Holocaust, shocked the world. Since then Hamas’ most senior leaders have publicly spoken of their intentions to commit equally appalling terror attacks again and again. It is worth remembering that Israel did not start this conflict. Indeed Israel did not even expect it. It was Hamas’s decision to violently break the ceasefire which had existed before October when it launched its surprise attack.
The International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) provisional ruling on South Africa’s controversial charge of ‘genocide’ against Israel was significant. This is because the court rejected South Africa’s demand for an immediate ceasefire, upholding Israel’s right to self-defence against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in line with international law. The additional provisional measures that it imposed ensure the prevention of genocide, facilitation of humanitarian aid, and preservation of evidence - all of which conform to Israel's standing commitments. Israel continues to provide Gaza with fresh produce and supplies, including essential items such as electricity.
The ICJ also ruled that Hamas must oblige by the “immediate and unconditional” release of all the hostages held illegally in its captivity. This has not happened. The issue is crucial to get an answer on in order to show the participants in their true colours. Thus it is difficult in these circumstances to see Israel as genocidal when it is faced by a completely genocidal Hamas, whose aim is the destruction of Israel.
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
I believe it is only right that the UK is pausing any future funding of UNRWA whilst these concerning allegations that some employees were directly involved in the 7th October Hamas attack are reviewed. The United States, Germany, Australia, Italy, Canada, Finland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have all temporarily paused funding too.
Beyond the initial allegations, I understand that reports have emerged that more UNRWA staff are operatives of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or other Gaza-based terror groups. It is not helpful at all that so many UNRWA operatives appear to have close links with Hamas and other terrorist organisations. How they think that we can turn a blind eye to their activities defies belief.
The UK remains committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza who desperately need it, and the Government is funding multiple implementing partners. The commitment to trebling aid to Gaza still stands, and the UK is providing £60 million in humanitarian assistance to support partners including the British Red Cross, UNICEF, the UN World Food Programme, and Egyptian Red Crescent Society to respond to critical food, fuel, water, health, shelter, and security needs in Gaza. The UK will continue to support the United Nations World Food Programme to deliver a new humanitarian land corridor from Jordan into Gaza. 750 tonnes of life-saving food aid arrived in the first delivery and 315 tonnes in the second delivery.
However, funding alone is not enough, and Government is also working closely with partners to try to get aid into Gaza in the necessary quantities. Indeed, the UK played a leading role in securing the passage of UN Security Council resolution 2720, which made clear the urgent demand for expanded humanitarian access. Moreover, Ministers are lobbying the Government of Israel to allow more aid in and reduce the numerous constraints that are hindering many aspects of the UK’s and others’ efforts to help Gazan civilians.
The UK Government takes its export control responsibilities extremely seriously and operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. All export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria, based on the most up-to-date information and analysis available. There is no reason at all to have another look at our export controls, which have proved the test of time.
Licence decisions take account of prevailing circumstances at the time of application and include human rights and international humanitarian law considerations. Export licenses are not issued where to do so would be inconsistent with the consolidated criteria, including where there is a clear risk that the items might be used for a serious violation of international law.
The Government is monitoring the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories very closely, and it will take any action that the Government considers appropriate as the situation develops. The Export Control Joint Unit has in place an established process for responding, at pace, to changing conditions in a country where the UK has previously granted export licences, and where those licences remain in place. That situation is under constant review. The fact remains, however, that Hamas could end this conflict today, stopping the suffering of everybody, including the Palestinian people whom it continues to endanger.
I do share your concern for patients and healthcare workers. However it is a tactic of Hamas to deliberately embed terror infrastructure and its leadership within, and beneath, densely populated civilian areas, including mosques and hospitals. Hospitals, medical staff, and civilians all have protected status under international law meaning that Hamas’ conversion of hospital facilities into what are effectively legitimate military targets is a war crime which must be called out in the strongest possible terms. It is a great shame, indeed a disaster, for Hamas to use hospitals in this way as it undermines a key aspect of crucial Palestinian infrastructure.
There is evidence of Hamas terror infrastructure inside, beneath, and adjacent to Gazan hospitals, including at the Shifa Hospital, Indonesian Hospital, and Rantisi Children’s Hospital. Gaza’s Kamal Adwan Hospital had been transformed into a military command facility under Hamas control, according to Hospital Director Ahmed Kahlot. Hospital staff has pointed out Hamas’ storage of weapons in incubators intended for premature babies. Video evidence has emerged of suicide vests, rocket propelled grenades, motorcycles used to kidnap Israelis to Gaza, nappies, chairs with rope to hold hostages – all found in the basement of the Rantisi Children’s Hospital in Gaza. This points to the hospital’s use by Hamas to hold Israeli hostages there.
Hamas’ use of hospitals for military purposes is longstanding and well documented. For example, in 2015 a report by Amnesty International stated that Shifa hospital has served as a Hamas interrogation and torture centre.
Journalists in Gaza
Journalists covering difficult situations across the world do a valuable job in challenging circumstances, and it is right that, under International Humanitarian Law, they should be afforded protection. However they must also take heed of the situation and not risk their own safety.
The problem in Gaza is the same problem that underlies the whole issue of civilian casualties - that Hamas have embedded their infrastructure within, beneath and around civilian areas. This is a deliberate tactic used by terror organisations using civilians as human shields. By embedding their operation in sensitive civilian locations such as hospitals and schools they are making these places military targets.
Further it has been shown that some journalists are themselves members of Hamas and are therefore putting themselves in danger as part of their commitment to the cause. Hamza al-Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria, who were killed in Gaza, are two examples of those who have been found to be members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group.
I want to see and end to the current fighting as much as anyone else. I continue in my view that the UK must work to achieve a sustainable peace with legitimate peace partners, and expand the ground-breaking Abraham Accords in order to secure region-wide peace. The UK remains committed to a two-state solution, and I believe that a priority must now be to create the conditions for peace long-term. To this end, I would support the UK joining the landmark International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which is set to provide $250 million over 5 years for peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians. The UK should join this crucial U.S. initiative to strengthen an enduring movement for peace.