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Middle East: Armed Conflict

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports the Government has received on war crimes allegedly committed by Hamas during Operation Cast Lead; and if he will make a statement. (255107)

We know that Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians. We have repeatedly condemned such attacks and for years we have classed the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist group.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the number of civilians who were allegedly (a) killed and (b) injured (i) in booby-trapped houses and (ii) by bombs placed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip during the recent hostilities; and if he will make a statement. (255108)

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (as at 5 February 2009) between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 1,440 Palestinians were killed during the recent conflict in Gaza, of whom 431 were children and 114 were women.

The number of injuries stands at 5,380, of whom 1,872 are children and 800 are women.

We are unable to verify these figures or who was responsible when these deaths or injuries occurred.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the number of (a) rockets and (b) mortar shells fired at Israel since 18 January 2009; and if he will make a statement. (255109)

As at 9 February 2009, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, over 30 rockets, mortar shells and Grad missiles have been fired at Israel since the 18 January 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the presence in the Gaza Strip of Iranian-made weapons; what assessment he has made of such reports; and what assessment he has made of the extent of the (a) cognisance of and (b) involvement in such activity by the Iranian Government. (256062)

Due to the sensitive nature of the reporting concerned we are unable to comment on this matter in detail.

However, we have long had serious concerns about the support that Iran provides in the form of funding, training and arms supplies to groups which are undermining peace in the Middle East through violence, including Hamas. Such support is unacceptable and only serves to undermine regional security. We hope that Iran will instead give political and diplomatic support to the Palestinian Authority in its attempts to build institutions and improve security.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made a recent assessment of the references to Jewish people in the Hamas Charter in relation to the political situation in Gaza. (256156)

[holding answer 10 February 2009]: We have made no recent assessment of the Hamas Charter. We have long been clear that there are significant aspects of the Hamas Charter, its policy and its action which we completely deplore.

The Government condemn all acts of racism, anti-Semitism and religious intolerance. We are fully committed to tackling these manifestations of hatred. That is why we extended the scope of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to cover religiously as well as racially aggravated offences.