Gaza and Israel

My statement on Gaza and Israel.

The situation in the Middle East is deteriorating rapidly. The appalling civil war in Syria has killed more than 150,000 people in 3 years. Thousands are being killed in what is now a brutal Shia/Sunni civil war in Iraq. Millions are displaced from their homes and millions more exist in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Egypt has gone through a turbulent three years and faces huge challenges. And there is a recent serious deterioration in relations following the ending of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  

Only a few constituents have written or emailed me about events in Syria, Iraq or Egypt.   However over recent days I have received hundreds of similar emails from constituents who are distressed and deeply concerned at the scenes of conflict and death in Gaza.    

Many constituents share my deep concern at the growing violence and tension in Israel and Palestine. The recent deterioration follows the kidnap and brutal murder  of three Israeli teenagers, Naftali Frankel and Gil-ad Sha'er, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, in the West Bank, and the subsequent brutal murder of 17 year old Palestinian teenager Mohamed Abu Khdeir in East Jerusalem. 

These were appalling and inexcusable crimes. My thoughts are with the families of those who have lost loved ones and it is imperative that all those responsible are now brought to justice.

It also clear that with every tragic event such as these the prospects of peace appear even further away. 

Over recent days we have seen repeated rocket fire by Hamas from Gaza into cities and towns in Southern Israel,  and today reportedly into cities in the West Bank too, and the continuation of intensive Israeli air strikes on hundreds of targets in Gaza which have caused more than one hundred deaths.

This is clearly a critical point in the region and I believe that both Israelis and Palestinians should show maximum restraint and try to prevent tensions from escalating further. Part of this must be ensuring that the civilian population on both sides is protected.

The British government and the United Nations Security Council have called for a ceasefire and it is now imperative that all sides, including all groups in Gaza, heed this call.  

The risk of further bloodshed, violence and anguish remins high. I hope that in the coming days and weeks both  the Israelis and the Palestinians show maximum restraint.

I have written on behalf of my constituents to the Foreign Secretary to express their concerns  and views about collective punishment of Palestinians. I also raised the issue of the suffering of Palestinians in refugee camps in Syria directly with Foreign Office Minister Sayeeda Warsi at the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday 8 July.

Ultimately, of course, this cycle of violence can only be broken through dialogue and negotiation. It is vital therefore that at this moment of grave danger, the British Government work with our international allies to call for calm and renewed efforts towards peace  and renewed efforts to secure a negotiated two-state settlement that establishes a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. I share the widespread frustration that there has been such limited progress on this in recent years and I can assure my constituents that I will continue to press the UK Government to work internationally to urgently restart the peace process.

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