The attack on Israel on 7 October was truly horrific. I join the UK Government in utterly condemning the appalling attacks perpetrated by Hamas, standing resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror and highlighting the need to act under international humanitarian law.
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 offers nothing to them other than more terror and more bloodshed. I therefore support Israel’s right to go after Hamas, take back the hostages, deter further incursions and strengthen its security for the long term. The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy. While acknowledging that Hamas has enmeshed itself amidst the civilian population of Gaza, the UK Government has called on Israel to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.
The rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza is deeply troubling. On 23 October the Government announced an additional £20 million of humanitarian aid. This latest funding is in addition to the £10 million of aid announced by the Prime Minister on 16 October and brings to £30 million the total donated by the UK to the OPTs since Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on 7 October. This additional funding is more than doubling our existing aid commitment for the Occupied Palestinian Territories this year (£27 million). I have also been assured that the UK will consider further support depending on changing humanitarian needs on the ground.
However, funding alone is not enough, and I welcome the extensive diplomatic efforts the UK is making to ensure humanitarian support reaches those who need it. The Prime Minister has raised humanitarian support during his meetings with the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Palestinian Authority, and during the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to the region, he spoke to counterparts in Egypt, Turkey and Qatar to work with them to push for agreement on ongoing humanitarian access to Gaza. The UK Government has also been clear that it recognises the need for humanitarian pauses to deliver aid safely and sustainably.
Regarding calls for a ceasefire, the UK 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. They have no interest in resolution, have never attempted to engage in a two-state solution and have made every attempt to collapse the Oslo process. I must reiterate that Israel has the right to take action to defend itself and to recover its hostages, and the UK while respecting that, will always encourage it to adhere to international law and protect civilians.
The safety of all British nationals continues to be the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s top priority, and the Foreign Secretary is working with Israeli and Egyptian counterparts and other international partners to establish a safe passage for British nationals out of Gaza.
British nationals in need of assistance should contact +972 (0)3 725 1222 or +972 (2) 5414100. If they experience technical difficulties or if they are in the UK, call +44 20 7008 5000. British nationals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including Gaza, are advised to register their presence with the FCDO. https://www.register.service.csd.fcdo.gov.uk/israel-20231009/tell-the-uk-government-youre-in-israel-or-the-occupied-palestinian-territories https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/israel.
Looking to the long-term, the UK Government has been clear that we must never lose sight of how essential the two-state solution is. The UK will work with our international partners to bring renewed energy and creativity to that effort. This will rely on establishing more effective governance for Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank, and will also mean challenging actions that undercut legitimate aspirations for Palestinian statehood.