During the hostilities the UK and EU repeatedly urged the Israelis to act in proportionate and measured ways, so as to minimise civilian death and suffering. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised this personally with the Israeli Prime Minister on 18 July shortly after the conflict began and I raised it with my counterpart on 4 August, expressing my concern that the targeting of bridges and roads was hindering humanitarian efforts. Together with the EU, the Government have consistently urged all parties to do everything possible to protect civilian populations and to refrain from actions in violation of international humanitarian law. Following the incident in Qana in which dozens of civilians were killed, including children, the UK also signed up to UN Security Council Presidential Statement expressing concern at the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Neither I nor my colleagues have had any direct representations from human rights agencies to discuss Israeli actions in Lebanon in July and August. Nevertheless, officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office held a meeting with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during the conflict during which the humanitarian and human rights situation in Lebanon were discussed. Officials also met with human rights NGOs during the Special Session of the Human Rights Council in August 2006. The Government and the EU have consistently urged all parties to do everything possible to protect civilian populations and to refrain from actions in violation of international humanitarian law. Since UN Security Council Resolution 1701 brought about a ceasefire on 14 August, there has been a significant improvement in the humanitarian situation on the ground. The UK is providing £22.3 million to Lebanon for humanitarian and reconstruction purposes and £1.2 million on efforts to clear up unexploded ordnance.
The UK has provided £205,000 to the Mines Advisory Group for clearance of unexploded ordnance from the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel and made a commitment to provide a sum of £1 million to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for similar tasking. The UNMAS—the lead agency dealing with unexploded ordnance—has indicated that it needs $4,200,000 to deal with unexploded ordnance. These figures relate to the conflict as a whole: we are unable to identify costs relating only to the last three days of the conflict.
In the year preceding the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel that began on 12 July there were four separate instances of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel by Hezbollah. These caused one fatality and 16 injuries on the Israeli side. The Israeli police reported that 3,970 rockets landed on Israel during the hostilities, killing 39 civilians and injuring approximately 2,000 more. Since the ceasefire came into effect on 14 August there have been no further rocket strikes by Hezbollah into Israel.
On 25 July, four UN observers were killed in an Israeli Air Force strike on a UN base in Khiyam in southern Lebanon. On 27 July the UK signed up to a UN Presidency Statement expressing the Council’s shock and distress at the event. The full text of the Presidency statement can be found on the UN website at: http://www.un.org//News/Press/docs/2006/sc8791.doc.htm. The statement called on the Government of Israel to conduct an inquiry into the incident. Our Ambassador in Tel Aviv also raised it directly with the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. Prime Minister Olmert expressed his deep regret over the incident and promised a comprehensive inquiry would be held. The Israeli Foreign Minister also expressed her condolences for the loss of life and said the attack was not deliberate. We understand that the Israelis have shared the findings of the inquiry with the UN and the countries whose nationals died in the incident.
The UK has always recognised Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence. At the same time we made clear during the conflict our deep concern at the deaths of civilians and at the destruction of civilian infrastructure and consistently urged Israel to exercise utmost restraint and act in compliance with international humanitarian law.
The UK has not conducted an investigation into Israel’s conduct in Lebanon between 12 July and 14 August. We note that various human rights non-governmental organisations and the visit report of the four UN special procedure mandate holders have accused both Israel and Hezbollah of serious violations of international humanitarian law. We believe that any credible allegations of improper conduct should be properly investigated and appropriate action taken by the Governments of Israel and Lebanon. We have held discussions about unexploded ordnance with both the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel. We have called on the Government of Israel to make a public statement about its use of cluster munitions in the recent conflict with Lebanon and would expect them to investigate any well-founded allegations of misuse of munitions by its armed forces, just as the UK would do.
We have asked the Israeli authorities to make a statement about their use of cluster bombs. The UK regards cluster munitions as a legitimate weapon when used in accordance with international humanitarian law. We would expect the Government of Israel to investigate any credible allegations of improper use of such munitions. We do not intend to raise with the Israeli authorities the chain of command in the decision to use cluster bombs.
Hezbollah fired rockets into Northern Israel in June 2005, November 2005, December 2005 and May 2006. The rocket attack in November 2005 struck a range of targets in northern Israel and some of the rockets landed in the Sheba’a Farms area. We have no exact information on the numbers of rockets fired on these occasions but there were multiple attacks in each case.