A letter was sent for publication to the Guardian on 13 May 2023 from a cross-party group of UK Parliamentarians on Gaza. The letter was not published due to the announcement of a ceasefire, but the key messages, however, remain very valid, and the UK must redouble its efforts to resolve the root causes of the nightmare for people in Gaza, including ensuring that all actors are held accountable to international law, an end to Israel's blockade and collective punishment of two million people in Gaza and an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.
The UK must act fast to save civilians bearing the brunt of conflict in Gaza
Israel’s latest aerial bombardment of densely-populated and blockaded Gaza has already killed 33 people, including six children. Children – some of whom have now experienced five major conflicts in their short lifetimes – are being traumatised all over again, and hospitals are struggling to cope with the scores of injured. Indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian militant groups is menacing civilians in Israel, with those that have evaded the ‘Iron Dome’ damaging homes, and claiming one life.
Civilian suffering in Gaza has been further compounded by Israel’s tightening closure. Despite clear duties under international humanitarian law to permit unimpeded humanitarian access, Israel has prevented the entry of roughly 300 truckloads per day of food, fuel and medical supplies and stopped more than 200 medical patients, many of them with cancer, from exiting for potentially life-saving care at hospitals outside Gaza.
UK Ministers have spoken frequently about how our country’s “strong bilateral relationship” with Israel allows us to “raise issues where we disagree”. As a group of cross-party parliamentarians, we hope that the sheer level of humanitarian suffering in Gaza is one area where such disagreement is clear. The current situation on the ground, however, suggests that if the UK is raising such concerns, Israel is not listening. Reports that the UK has worked US to prevent a statement of the UN Security Council on the situation instead raise fears that the UK is failing to push meaningfully for an end to the violence.
International action is urgently needed to save both Palestinian and Israeli lives from another senseless conflict. The UK should lead the way by deploying its “strong bilateral relationship” to deescalate tensions, including by pressing Israel to halt its strikes against residential buildings that have exerted such a heavy civilian death toll. It must press for both an urgent ceasefire, and an immediate opening of Gaza’s crossings so that humanitarian relief efforts to begin in earnest.
And when this latest escalation is over, the UK government should redouble its efforts to resolve the root causes of this recurring nightmare, by ensuring that all actors are held accountable to international law without fear or favour. Bringing the blockade of Gaza – the collective punishment of two million people – and the occupation of Palestinian territory to an end must be the lodestar of British policy to end perpetual violence in the region.
Rushanara Ali MP
Crispin Blunt MP
Rt Hon. Lord Menzies Campbell of Pittenweem KC
Rt Hon. Alistair Carmichael MP
Sarah Champion MP
Julie Elliott MP
Rt Hon. Lord Peter Hain
Lord Mark McInnes of Kilwinning
Layla Moran MP
Brendan O’Hara MP
Tommy Sheppard MP
Philippa Whitford MP
Munira Wilson MP