Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Gaza. A tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East, where Israel has suffered the worst terror attack in its history at the hands of Hamas, while Palestinian civilians are facing a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

I am deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah, as is the UK Foreign Secretary. The UK Government is driving diplomatic efforts to achieve an immediate humanitarian pause to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to destruction, fighting and loss of life. These are several vital steps that we need to see, including the release of all hostages; the formation of a new Palestinian Government for the West Bank and Gaza, accompanied by an international support package; removing Hamas’ capacity to launch attacks against Israel; Hamas no longer being in charge of Gaza; and a political horizon which provides a credible and irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution. The international community will also need to make a massive effort to deliver a reconstruction plan for Gaza. There must be a reduction in civilian casualties and all parties must act within international humanitarian law. I agree with the Government that we want to see Israel take greater care to limit its operations to military targets and avoid harming civilians and destroying homes. 

As you will know, there is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza. The Government is getting on with aid delivery, funding multiple implementing partners including other UN agencies and international and UK NGOs. 

The UK Foreign Secretary recently announced a further £10 million in aid spending for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), bringing UK support to more than £100 million in the financial year 2023/24. The UK has trebled its aid commitment to the OPTs, and funding has supported partners including the British Red Cross, UNICEF, the UN World Food Programme and Egyptian Red Crescent Society to deliver vital supplies. Indeed, I wholeheartedly welcome that more than 2,000 tonnes of food aid – the UK’s largest delivery of aid to Gaza thus far – crossed the border on 20 March, and is being distributed by the WFP on the ground. This adds to the 150 tonnes of UK funded relief items including blankets and tents, which arrived on 13 March, and will be distributed by UNICEF. A full UK field hospital run by UK-Med has also arrived in Gaza and is now operational and providing life-saving care.

I was horrified to learn of the deaths of people in Gaza waiting for an aid convoy on 29 February. I wholeheartedly agree with the UK Foreign Secretary that there must be an urgent investigation and accountability for this tragedy.

It is impossible to separate this terrible event from inadequate aid supplies to Gaza. What happened on 29 February only serves to underscore the importance of securing an immediate humanitarian pause. As the UK Government has repeatedly argued, a sustained pause in the fighting is the only way to get lifesaving aid in at the scale needed and free the hostages still cruelly held by Hamas. I welcome all the work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in ensuring that the UK is playing a leading role on the international stage in seeking a sustainable ceasefire. The UK Prime Minister has stressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog the need to act in line with international law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians in Gaza.

I am aware of recent reports that Israel has been using white phosphorus in Gaza, according to Human Rights Watch. Israel however has categorically denied its usage. While white phosphorus itself is not a prohibited substance, when used against civilian targets, it is considered an incendiary weapon under Protocol III of the Convention on the Prohibition of Use of Certain Conventional Weapons. I want to make it clear that the UK Government recognises that Israel has the right to self-defence, but must adhere to international humanitarian law and take every possible measure to minimize harm to civilians. This includes respecting the sanctity of hospitals. The suffering being experienced at the al-Shifa hospital is difficult to comprehend; it is tragic that innocent people, including young children and babies, have lost their lives there as a result of the lack of electricity. The acute situation at al-Shifa further highlights the urgent need to get more aid into Gaza and I welcome all that the UK is doing to this end. I will, however, note that it is clear that Hamas has put Palestinians at grave risk by embedding themselves in the civilian population and using civilians as human shields.

As you will appreciate, in a conflict situation there is a limit to what light I, as an individual MP, can shed on each and every development or each claim and counterclaim. The UK has long held the position that there should be a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders and, for many years the UK has consistently called- both bilaterally and via the UN- for an immediate end to all actions that undermine the viability of such a solution.