Israel MPs debate Gaza violence

Britain’s first MP of Palestinian descent has told the House of Commons that Hamas “is partly responsible” along with Benjamin Netanyahu for the deadly clashes with the IDF on the Gaza border which resulted in scores of deaths.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson, was speaking in the chamber following an Urgent Question tabled by Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry on the violence the region.

Ms Moran said: “I absolutely agree Hamas is partly responsible for this, and in between Hamas and a very extreme Israeli Prime Minister we have the blood of children.”

Referring to the failed attempt at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Ms Moran said the “two sides are not meeting as equals on whatever peace table”.

She added: “Now is the moment to give recognition to the Palestinians so we have hope – because that is also what has died this week.”

Earlier, Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, described the events of Monday, in which more than 60 Palestinians died, as “tragic” and said it was “extremely worrying” that the death toll continues to rise.

Mr Burt added that “extremist elements had been exploiting these protests for their own purposes”  and added the government would not waver from defending Israeli’s right to protects its own borders.

But he called on Israel to “show greater restraint” and urged “all sides to show real leadership and courage”.

Alistair Burt, the Middle East Minister (Photo: Creative Commons)

Mr Burt said the international community must step up efforts to ease restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into Gaza and the “return of the PA to full administration” in the region.

Ms Thornberry responded to Mr Burt by accusing the IDF of using ammunition designed for hunters to “do maximum internal damage to the animal” in Gaza “against men, women and children”.

She argued for Britain to help draft a new United Nations Security Council statement, after America vetoed one proposed by Kuwait on Monday night, “simply calling for an urgent independent enquiry into the violence in Gaza to assess whether international law has been broken and hold those responsible to account”.

She added that the statement should be drafted in a way no country could reasonably object to “not even the United States – unless they were prepared to make the case there is one rule for the state of Israel and another for everybody else”.

Ms Thornberry said she hoped an investigation would “be the start of an effort at the UN and elsewhere to bring urgent and concerted international pressure on the Netanyahu government to lift the illegal blockage on Gaza, end their illegal settlements and end their illegal occupation of Palestinian territories”.

In response, Mr Burt accused Mr Thornberry of “making a series of allegations on the use of live ammunition” and said the UK government supported the call for an urgent investigation into the events in Gaza.

He reminded Ms Thornberry that the Hamas government was also responsible for the “most desperate” of situations.

The minister added: “There was an element missing in her response – and that is not to m mention any possible complicit involvement with the events. We need to take that into account.”

Labour MP Chris Williamson called Monday’s events “a massacre carried out by Netanyahu’s apartheid regime” and called for support of the BDS campaign “at least until Israel complies by its obligations under international law".

Lisa Nandy MP spoke of the government’s failure to condemn the “reckless inflammatory behaviour of the Trump administration” which she said “shames this nation".

The Wigan Labour MP added: “Even more shameful is the British government’s equivocation about arms sales to Israel.”

She insisted the British government failed to carry out checks on how weapons sold to Israel were used.

Mr Burt said Ms Nandy would have to “prove her allegations” and suggested there was no evidence at the moment of this link.

Andy Slaughter, Labour’s Hammersmith MP, called for a “more robust response” from the Foreign Office to Israel’s actions.

Labour’s Joan Ryan added: “The death toll on the Gazan border yesterday was truly terrible and the violence must stop. Hamas must end its cynical exploitation of the peace process and the IDF must show restraint and do all they can to minimise civilian casualties."

Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, said “too many people in this place have already made their mind up to who is the guilty party in this".

He pointed to the use by Hamas of children as “shields” on the Gazan border.

Bob Blackman, the Tory MP for Harrow East, called for an assessement of the role of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “in this whole terrible incident".

He pointed to the “rising antisemitic statements in recent weeks” by President Abbas.

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, said evidence that up to 50,000 people gathered on the Gazan border and said blaming “Israel only merely encourages Hamas to do worse".

Theresa Villiers, the Chipping Barnet MP, called for Mr Burt to “condemn Hamas as a serious roadblock to the peace process".

Louise Ellman added: “Yesterday’s events were truly horrendous and it is very important that all the facts surrounding what happened are identified and exposed."

Following the debate, in a joint statement, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush and president-elect Marie van der Zyl said: “We are profoundly anguished at the violent scenes and loss of life at the Israel-Gaza border.

“No state could allow its borders to be breached by those who openly wish harm to its civilians. Israel is defending its people from repeated violent attempts at mass invasion.

“The responsibility for the violence lies with Hamas, a terrorist organisation with the explicit stated aim of murdering Israeli civilians and the ultimate destruction of the State of Israel.

“Hamas is cynical in the use of its population - including children - to join known terrorists in violent attempts to break through the border and kill Israeli citizens.

“We call on Hamas to turn instead to a path of peace with Israel that could bring an end to the tragic conflict and offer a better future for all Palestinians and Israelis alike.”