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Middle East: Armed Conflict

Volume 488: debated on Friday 27 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received allegations of the unauthorised use of ambulances for non-medical purposes by members of Hamas during Operation Cast Lead; and if he will make a statement. (256729)

We have not received substantiated reports of Hamas misuse of ambulances, but there have been widespread reports of unacceptable activity by Hamas members. We condemn any attack on innocent civilians. UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which was proposed by us, was emphatic in its condemnation of all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the number of suicide bomb attacks in Israel for which Hamas claimed responsibility between 1994 and 2006; and if he will make a statement. (256735)

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, between 1994 and 2006, there were 153 suicide attacks committed by Palestinians in Israel. We are unable to verify either the total number of attacks or the organisation responsible for individual attacks.

The UK has proscribed the military wing of Hamas as a terrorist group and repeatedly condemned attacks targeting civilians.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the briefing note on Operation Cast Lead produced jointly by his Department and the Home Office Research and Information Unit; which (a) organisations and (b) individuals were consulted prior to drafting the briefing note; who drafted the briefing note; for what purpose it was produced; how many copies were circulated; to whom; at what cost to his Department; what contributions Ministers in his Department made to the briefing note; and if he will make a statement. (256736)

The Government worked hard to explain UK policy to interested groups throughout the conflict. In addition to public and parliamentary statements, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have met privately with numerous non governmental organisations, Muslim and Jewish community groups and parliamentarians. We have also written to many individuals and groups, including my letter to all MPs and Peers on 9 January 2009.

As part of this engagement, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials drew up summaries of our actions, policy, humanitarian efforts and key ministerial statements on areas of concern to audiences. These were distributed widely across Whitehall and to our embassies and high commissions around the world. Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU) also disseminated them to their network. The factsheet evolved as the crisis progressed and continues to be updated regularly. I will place a copy of the latest factsheet in the Library of the House.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the government of Israel's estimate of the number of civilian Palestinian casualties during Operation Cast Lead; and if he will make a statement. (256737)

The Israeli authorities currently estimate that between 1100 and 1200 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. They estimate that 250 were civilians.

The UN, based on Palestinian Ministry of Health figures, reports that approximately 1,440 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict began, including 431 children and 114 women.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications for UK policy of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and if he will make a statement. (257374)

The Government agree with the conclusion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the construction of the barrier along the chosen route, and its associated regime, is unlawful under international law.

The Government have consistently made this position clear and supported the UN General Assembly Resolution which acknowledged the ICJ advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of the barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. While the advisory opinions of the ICJ are not legally binding, and the UK is not obliged under international law to take such diplomatic action, we continue to lobby the Government of Israel to ensure that any Israeli barrier is routed within Green Line Israel.