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Middle East

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 2 April 2019

8. What assessment he has made of the diplomatic implications of rocket fire from Gaza towards Tel Aviv. (910168)

We are concerned by the recent violence in Israel and Gaza, and we welcome the Egyptian efforts to de-escalate the situation. At the UN Security Council on 26 March, the UK condemned the rocket attacks, which injured two British-Israeli citizens. We regret the loss of life, including the death of four children in protests over the weekend—mercifully, fears of major violence were not realised. Our diplomats in the region urge all parties to continue to demonstrate restraint in the tense days that lie ahead.

I thank the Minister for his response and associate myself with his comments. Last month, more than 60 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel. Two were intercepted above Tel Aviv, while another destroyed a residence in central Israel that was occupied by a British-Israeli family, resulting in injuries, including to a six-month-old baby. What steps are the Government taking to support our ally, Israel, as it fights this terrorist attack on the country?

I think we all recognise that Israel is an important strategic partner for the United Kingdom and that we need to collaborate actively on issues of defence, security and intelligence. In October 2018, the Government launched the UK-Israel counter-terrorism dialogue to share best practice and insights on a wide range of capabilities. We are now committed to holding such a dialogue annually, which will help to complement the already strong operational relationship between our countries.

21. Two weeks ago at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UK abstained on a motion to support accountability for violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories. Since then, another Palestinian health worker, Sajid Muzher, has been shot and killed by Israeli forces—the fourth in just this year. Does the Minister agree that the killing of Palestinian medics is fuelled by the impunity that results from countries not voting at the UNHRC? Will we use our vote in future? (910181)

There are two issues at stake, so I shall go into some detail, if I may. We abstained on that UNHRC resolution calling for an inquiry on the basis that the substance of such a resolution must be impartial and balanced. We could not support such an investigation when the resolution refused explicitly to call for an investigation into non-state actors such as Hamas. I should also say—this relates to the hon. Gentleman’s Question 21—that we have stressed and will continue to stress the importance of protecting and delivering medical services, particularly in Gaza. As recently as 28 March, the Department for International Development announced a new £2 million package for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which will contribute to the delivery of urgently needed supplies.

What action has my right hon. Friend taken, given that Hamas is organising for women and children to go to the border between Gaza and Israel and therefore provoking violent confrontations?

Clearly, we want to try to avoid violent confrontation at all costs. As I said in my earlier answer, mercifully the major concerns about violence at the protests this weekend, which we felt could have been a lot more serious than they were, were not realised. My hon. Friend will recognise that we do all we can on the ground to try to defuse some of the tensions. That is an important part of our diplomatic work, which we do with other countries as well, of course.

I utterly condemn the latest rocket attacks that the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) raised. We know that Hamas is given tens of millions of dollars a year by Iran to fund these terrorist acts. What steps are the Government taking to stop the Iranian regime funding barbaric middle east terror groups such as Hamas?

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. She will recognise that Hamas is one of a number of Iranian proxies in the region. Our position is that Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept previously agreed and signed agreements. We condemn Hamas and other terrorist groups for firing rockets into Israel from not only Gaza but elsewhere, in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb). Those groups must permanently end such attacks against both civilians and defence forces.