The attacks in Israel last weekend shocked the world. Over 1,400 people murdered one by one; over 3,500 wounded; almost 200 taken hostage; the elderly, men, women, children and babes in arms murdered, mutilated, burned alive. We should call it by its name: it was a pogrom. The families of some of the missing are in the Public Gallery today. We call for the immediate release of all hostages, and I say to them, “We stand with you. We stand with Israel.”
The murdered and the missing come from over 30 countries, including the United Kingdom. The terrible nature of these attacks means it is proving difficult to identify many of the deceased, but, with a heavy heart, I can inform the House that at least six British citizens were killed. A further 10 are missing, some of whom are feared to be among the dead.
We are working with Israel to establish the facts as quickly as possible, and we are supporting the families who are suffering unimaginable pain. We are also helping British citizens who want to leave Israel. We have organised eight flights so far, bringing out more than 500 people, with more flights leaving today. We are working with neighbouring countries on land evacuations for our citizens in Gaza and the west bank. I have spoken specifically to President Sisi about supporting civilians to leave Gaza by the Rafah border crossing, which remains closed at present, and we have a Border Force team in Egypt working with our embassy to help citizens when they are able to cross.
I will come back to the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza in a moment, but I want first to address the British Jewish community directly: as I said at Finchley United synagogue last week, and at the Jewish school I visited this morning, we stand with you now and always. This atrocity was an existential strike at the very idea of Israel as a safe homeland for the Jewish people. I understand why it has shaken you to your core. I am sickened that antisemitic incidents have increased since the attack. We are doing everything we can to protect you. We are providing an additional £3 million for the Community Security Trust to protect schools, synagogues and other Jewish community buildings, and we are working with the police to ensure that hate crime and the glorification of terror are met with the full force of the law. I know that the whole House will support that and join me in saying unequivocally that we stand with the Jewish community.
I also recognise that this is a moment of great anguish for British Muslim communities, who are also appalled by the actions of Hamas but are fearful of the response. We must listen to those concerns with the same attentiveness. Hamas are using innocent Palestinian people as human shields, with the tragic loss of more than 2,600 Palestinian lives, including many children. We mourn the loss of every innocent life, of the civilians of every faith and every nationality who have been killed, so let us say it plainly: we stand with British Muslim communities, too.
Israel was founded not just as a homeland for the Jewish people, but as a guarantor of their security, to ensure that what happened in the holocaust could never happen again. Through its strength and resilience, Israel gradually achieved some of that longed-for security, despite the strategic threats on its borders, including Hezbollah in the north with Iran at its back. Israel normalised relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain through the Abraham accords, and moved towards normalising ties with Saudi Arabia—steps that were considered unthinkable not long ago.
One reason this attack is so shocking is that it is a fundamental challenge to any idea of co-existence, which is an essential precursor to peace and stability in the region. The question is: how should we respond? I believe that we must support absolutely Israel’s right to defend itself, to go after Hamas and take back the hostages, to deter further incursions, and to strengthen its security for the long term. That must be done in line with international humanitarian law, while recognising that Israel faces a vicious enemy who embed themselves behind civilians.
As a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians. I repeat President Biden’s words: as democracies, we are
“stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law.”
Humanity, law, decency, respect for human life—that is what sets us apart from the mindless violence of the terrorist.
There are three specific areas in which the United Kingdom is helping to shape events. First, we are working to prevent escalation and further threats against Israel. On Friday, RAF surveillance aircraft began patrols to track threats to regional security; I have deployed a Royal Navy task group to the eastern Mediterranean, including RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Argus, three Merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines, ready both to interdict arms and to support the humanitarian response; and we are bolstering our forces in Cyprus and across the region. Let me be clear: we are not engaging in fighting or in an offensive in Gaza, but we are increasing our presence to prevent broader regional instability at this dangerous moment.
Secondly, I am proud that we are a long-standing and significant provider of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. I can announce today that we are increasing our aid by a third, with an additional £10 million of support. An acute humanitarian crisis is unfolding, to which we must respond. We must support the Palestinian people, because they are victims of Hamas too. Like our allies, we believe that
“Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, or their legitimate aspirations to live with equal measures of security, freedom, justice, opportunity and dignity.”
Hamas simply do not stand for the future that Palestinians want, and they seek to put the Palestinian people in harm’s way. We must ensure that humanitarian support urgently reaches civilians in Gaza. That requires Egypt and Israel to allow in the aid that is so badly needed.
We also need to keep the situation in the west bank at the forefront of our minds at this moment of heightened sensitivity. Earlier today, I spoke to Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, to express our support for his efforts to provide stability.
Thirdly, we will use all the tools of British diplomacy to sustain the prospects of peace and stability in the region. Ultimately, that requires security for Israelis and Palestinians and a two-state solution, so we are increasing our regional engagement. I have spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu twice in the last week, along with the US, France, Germany, Italy and others. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was the first to visit Israel after the attacks. I met His Majesty the King of Jordan yesterday —a long-time voice of reason and moderation. I have spoken today with the leaders of Turkey and, previously, Egypt, and I will speak to others in the coming days. Our partners in the region have asked us to play a role in preventing further escalation, and that is what we will do. However hard it is, we need to ask the tough questions about how we can revive the long-term prospects for a two-state solution, for normalisation and for regional stability, not least because that is precisely what Hamas have been trying to kill.
In conclusion, unequivocally backing Israel’s right to defend itself, stepping forward with humanitarian support, working to protect civilians from harm, and straining every sinew to keep the flame of peace and stability alive—that is our objective. It is the right approach for the region, and it is the right approach for Britain. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of his statement and for the updates the Government have provided to Labour Front Benchers over the past few days.
Last Saturday, Israel was the victim of terrorism on an unimaginable scale: the senseless murder of men, women, children and even babies; the horrors of hostage taking; music festivals turned to killing fields; innocent Jews slaughtered within their own kibbutz—an attack with no cause other than bloodshed. I am sure that over the last few days, every Member of the House has seen images from this crisis that will never be unseen: tiny bodies, wrapped in bundles, in Israel and now in Gaza; mothers and fathers grieving—Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jew; the innocent, dead.
As in any time of grave crisis, it is crucial that this House speaks with one voice in condemnation of terror, in support for Israel in its time of agony and for the dignity of all human life, because Hamas do not wish to see peace in the middle east; they just want to see Israel wiped off the map. But Hamas are not the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people are not Hamas.
Labour stands with Israel. Britain stands with Israel. The attack is ongoing, terrorists are at large and hostages are still being held, some of them British citizens. Israel has the right to bring her people home, to defend herself and to keep her people safe. While Hamas have the capability to carry out attacks on Israeli territory, there can be no safety. As Secretary of State Blinken said last week:
“We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard—even when it’s difficult”.
He is right.
As the Prime Minister has said, there is an acute humanitarian crisis unfolding. Israel’s defence must be conducted in accordance with international law, civilians must not be targeted and innocent lives must be protected. There must be humanitarian corridors and humanitarian access, including for food, water, electricity and medicines, so that hospitals can keep people alive and so that innocent people do not needlessly die. And there must be proper protection for all those who work selflessly so that aid can be delivered to victims.
There can be no doubt that responsibility for this crisis lies with Hamas. They have no interest in Palestinian rights and no interest in the security of the people of Gaza. They unleash terror and then hide among them—women and children used as human shields; hostages held, who should be released. Hamas are destroyers of lives, of hope and of peace. And we cannot give them what they want.
We must keep striving for a two-state solution: a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel. We cannot give up on that hope. We cannot let Hamas brutality be a catalyst for conflict in the wider region. Engagement between Israel and Arab nations must be strengthened, not abandoned. International co-operation, the rule of law and a political road to peace—Hamas want us to abandon all three. In defiance, we must be resolute on all of them.
These attacks are having a huge impact on communities across the United Kingdom. Many in this House will have heard devastating stories from people who have lost friends and family, and from people who are deeply worried about the future of those they know in Israel or Palestine—including the First Minister of Scotland, who I spoke to at the weekend. We stand with all of them. We stand against the worrying rise in Islamophobia and against the antisemitic abuse, threats and assaults that we have seen on British streets, because we must never underestimate the burden of history that Jewish people carry with them.
I do not want Britain to be a place where Jewish schools are closed, where Jewish children stay at home out of fear and where Jewish families feel compelled to hide their identity. I do not want Britain to be a place where British Muslims feel they have to apologise for the actions of people who do not act in their name. We cannot allow community cohesion in our country to be destroyed. We all bear a responsibility to do all we can to stamp out hate, and we fully support police action to provide extra assistance for our communities.
The events of the past week have seen horrors beyond our imagination, so let us send a strong message that Westminster is united, and Britain is united: with Israel, against terror, for international law and for the protection of innocent lives. There are difficult days ahead, but our values cannot be compromised. Terror cannot win.
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his remarks. Let me say at the outset that this is an unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult situation. It is likely to remain difficult for all of us in the days and weeks ahead, but we must always have at the forefront of our mind that responsibility for this crisis lies with Hamas, and with Hamas alone. It was a barbaric act of terrorism that has inflicted untold suffering and misery on so many people, and we have felt that acutely here at home.
We have seen the impact on our streets over the past week, and it has sickened all of us. We stand united in saying that antisemitism has no place in our society. Let me be unequivocal that those who incite racial or religious hatred on our streets, or who inflict violence and cause untold suffering to people, will be met with the full force of the law. I know the whole House will join me in making sure that happens: that the police have all the tools, resources and powers they need to bring that about.
In conclusion, let me say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right that this House stands united: united in condemning unequivocally this terrorist attack by Hamas, and united in saying that we will be steadfast in our support for Israel, and steadfast in our support for the Jewish people—not just today, not just tomorrow, but always.
The House will be grateful to both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for the lead that they have given in today’s statement. This is not the time to point out the faults of Benjamin Netanyahu. What we have to say is that the inexcusable terror attack on Israelis was intended to bring awful harm to the Palestinians.
Rather than quote international leaders, I want to quote a senior constituent, who said: “This is a very harrowing time for Jews all over the world. There are about 16 million of us worldwide. Why can’t they leave us alone?”
If we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we want to try to bring security, both to the people of Israel and to the Palestinians in Gaza. Does the Prime Minister know that he will have our support as he tries to do that?
I thank the Father of the House for what he has said, and I simply agree with his constituent in saying that all of us will pray for peace in the region, but especially for peace for those families who have been so tragically affected by what has happened over the past week.
Rabbie Burns once poignantly wrote that
“Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!”
It is with those words echoing in all our hearts that we send our thoughts and prayers to all those suffering in the middle east. The abhorrent terrorist attack by Hamas on the Jewish people and the Israeli state was a crime against our common humanity, and it must be condemned unequivocally. What more powerful response can we have than to seek to protect the shared innocence and shared humanity of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians?
That will require a lot. It will require the defeat of Hamas; it will require the safe return of all those hostages who have been taken; it will require the opening of humanitarian corridors, so that people can escape Gaza and aid can get in; and it will require medicine, water and electricity for hospitals, so that people who are injured can be treated. It will require no collective punishment. Making all of that happen will require international leadership and diplomacy. On these isles, that responsibility will fall to the UK Prime Minister, and I very much wish him well in making that happen.
Right across this Chamber, we all need to be very conscious that history will judge us on our response not just to these abhorrent attacks but to the humanitarian crisis that is undoubtedly unfolding in Gaza. Let us not be on the wrong side of history.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks, and I agree that this crisis demands that the United Kingdom steps up diplomatically to make a difference—to bring about peace and stability. That is what we have done over the past week, as I alluded to in my statement. The Foreign Secretary was the first person to visit Israel and has spoken to multiple counterparts. In the same vein, I myself have been working with allies across the region to make sure that we can work together to bring about a successful and peaceful resolution. We also recognise the scale of the humanitarian situation that is unfolding and are playing a leading role in helping to alleviate it, not least with our announcement today of considerably more aid for the Palestinian territories, building on our strong track record as one of the leading providers of aid to the region. That will continue.
The attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists was barbaric. Terrorists must be defeated, whoever they are and wherever they are. I commend my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for the stance that the Government have taken in support of the Jewish community here in the UK, and in support of Israel and its right to defend itself. I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that action must be taken in line with international humanitarian law, but will he give a commitment today that the Government will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to prevent regional escalation of the conflict? In doing so, will he reflect on the role of Iran?
I can give my right hon. Friend that reassurance. It is not only something that we have discussed extensively with partners in the region, but why last week I deployed surveillance aircraft and assets to the Mediterranean, and they are already engaged in ensuring that arms shipments do not find their way to people such as those in Hezbollah, and that Iran does not see this as an opportunity to escalate the conflict. The support that we have put into the region has already been welcomed by our partners, who share our aim to ensure that action is constrained to dealing with Hamas and what they have done. No one wants to see any escalation. Again, that is something that Prime Minister Netanyahu and I discussed, and he very much agrees that his objective is to deal with Hamas and not to see the conflict spread more widely.
The scale of Hamas’s terrorist attacks has been utterly horrifying and the atrocities they have committed are truly sickening. We stand with the people of Israel and with the Jewish community, who are grieving and afraid. We call for the unconditional release of all hostages and urge the Government finally to proscribe as a terrorist organisation the funders of Hamas: Iran’s revolutionary guard.
Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself and its citizens. That means targeting Hamas, not innocent civilians, in line with international law. I am concerned about the forced evacuation of hospitals in Gaza, which means death for innocent Palestinians who will not survive being taken off life support. The World Health Organisation has said that this may be a breach of international humanitarian law, so will the Prime Minister set out what advice he has received on the matter?
Unlike Hamas, the Israeli President has said that the Israeli armed forces will operate in accordance with international law. Israel’s attempt to minimise civilian casualties by warning people to leave northern Gaza has been further complicated by Hamas terrorists telling the local population not to leave and instead using them as human shields. We will continue to urge Israel, as I have done when I have spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu, that while it exercises its absolute right to defend itself and ensure that such attacks can never happen again, it should take every possible precaution to minimise the impact on civilians.
Saturday’s terror attack on Israel constituted crimes against humanity—crimes so heinous that they violated our understanding of the depths of human depravity. That depravity continues today, as innocents remain held hostage by Hamas terrorists and their patrons, the state of Iran.
Israel has a legitimate right to self-defence and to defeat Hamas. We can support Israel and grieve with its people while recognising that how a counter-terrorism operation is conducted matters. It matters because Israel’s actions as a rule-of-law nation, and our words as its friend, shape our ability to be a legitimate arbiter in future conflicts and to have the right to call out abusers such as Russia. It matters because although there is an imperative to defeat Hamas in the immediate term in order to secure Israel’s future, how they are defeated will shape the region’s future, and because the people of Gaza are not Hamas—1.2 million children bear no collective guilt for Hamas’s terror.
So today I repeat my call for the creation of a special envoy for the middle east peace process. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House more about what actions are being taken to prevent conflict and loss of life on the west bank and in East Jerusalem? When will we finally proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps?
With regard specifically to the west bank, this is something about which I spoke to Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority this morning. I also spoke yesterday to His Majesty the King of Jordan. We discussed the measures that are necessary and the support the UK can provide to ensure the strong stability of the west bank. No one wants to see the situation escalate. I assure my hon. Friend that we are in active dialogue with both partners to see how we can help bring that stability to the west bank. Indeed, it is something I will also continue to discuss with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is important that the west bank remains calm, and that is what we will help to bring about.
On Saturday, I went to shul and sat next to a constituent whose cousin is one of the hostages. My thoughts and prayers go out not only to him, but to all families and hostages currently detained.
While conflict escalates in the middle east, we see the effects on the streets here in Britain. I welcome the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition standing behind Israel’s right to defend itself and the £3 million increase in funding for the Community Security Trust. However, unfortunately, in the past week we have seen an increase of around 500% in antisemitic incidents and an 850% increase in suspicious behaviours, and even this weekend glorification of Hamas and genocidal chants on the streets of our cities, in some cases mere feet away from police officers. Will the Prime Minister join me in applauding the efforts of the CST in keeping the Jewish community safe, but also commit to ensuring that anyone found to be preaching this hate speech on our streets faces the full extent of the law?
I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I met the CST and police chiefs last week, in Downing Street, not just to provide extra funding, but to reiterate that there is zero tolerance in the United Kingdom for antisemitism. It is tragic that we have seen a significant increase in incidents over the past week, but those who perpetrate these crimes will be met with the full force of the law.
I want to add my voice to all those who stand with Israel and her inalienable right to defend herself against an unspeakable crime. As someone born in the middle east, as a father and as a human, it was too painful to watch. Israel has to take the necessary steps to root out this evil virus of fundamentalism that has so clearly infested those in Hamas and, of course, destroy it. Just as we stood together against ISIS, we will stand together again. My request to my right hon. Friend is that, when this has been done, the UK encourages Israel to set out for all to see the positive actions it will take to change the reality in Gaza once and for all. Gaza and the world will need Israel to show her best self after this war.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his powerful statement and also agree with him, We must think about the future, and in spite of this awful tragedy, we cannot lose sight of the better future that we all want to strive for. Indeed, in my conversations with leaders we have already been thinking about that, and it is something I raised with the Prime Minister of Israel as well. We all want that better future for the Israeli and Palestinian people, and hopefully out of this tragedy we will find a way to move closer towards it.
The massacre of Israeli civilians was a heinous act of terrorism that we all utterly condemn and the hostages must be released immediately. In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General,
“the horrific acts by Hamas do not justify responding with collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
But that is what we are seeing in Gaza, with civilian areas bombed and food, electricity, water and medicines all cut off. Such collective punishment is a war crime under the Geneva conventions, so will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to make it clear to the Israeli Government that this collective punishment of Palestinian civilians must end immediately?
I would say gently to the hon. Gentleman that I actually believe that we should support absolutely Israel’s right to defend itself and to go after Hamas, recognising that it faces a vicious enemy that embeds itself behind civilians. Of course, Israel will act within international humanitarian law—and, as a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution in avoiding harming citizens—but we must acknowledge always that the responsibility for what is happening here is with Hamas and Hamas alone.
May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the step that you took at the beginning of last week in lighting up this Palace in the colours of blue and white as an act of solidarity with the Israeli victims of Hamas terrorism? I know that it was appreciated by those British families mourning loved ones who were slain in that action as well as by families living with unimaginable fear right now because they have family members who have been taken hostage in Gaza. Some of those family members are with us in the Gallery.
Does the Prime Minister agree that after the acts of barbarism by Hamas, there is no going back to the situation before where, right under the noses of the international community, Hamas were allowed to rearm time and again? They were allowed to misappropriate aid into terrorist infrastructure, building those tunnels, amassing armaments and hiding them behind civilian families. Does he agree that the international community must take a stand and not allow the Gaza strip to go back to becoming a terrorist statelet?
First, I thank my right hon. Friend for everything he does to support the Jewish community here and overseas. I agree that no country can or would tolerate the slaughter of its citizens and simply return to the conditions that allowed that to take place. Israel has the right—indeed, the obligation—to defend itself and to ensure that this never happens again.
“No stone can remain unturned in finding a political solution.”
Those are not my words, but those of the Israeli and Arab mothers’ collective Woman Wage Peace, echoed in recent days by survivors from Kibbutz Be’eri, the family of those murdered at Netiv Ha’Asara, organisations such as B’Tselem, Omdim Ben Yachad, and thousands of peace activists and ordinary Israelis who are desperately praying for the cycle of violence to end and a lasting peace to be secured. What will the Government be doing to heed that call and mobilise international actors to find the political solution, however far away it feels right now, so that there may be a way out of the nightmare that Hamas has unleashed for all in Israel, Palestine and the wider region for good?
We must provide an alternative to the vision of violence, fear and terror presented by Hamas, and that is what the United Kingdom will do, standing with Israel but also working together with its people and our allies across the region—all of those who remain committed to a vision of a more peaceful, more integrated, more secure and more prosperous middle east. That is what we will work towards.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I welcome in particular his urging of the state of Israel to act in line with international humanitarian law and his call for Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians. May I ask him to press upon our Israeli friends the principles of distinction and proportionality in their action to avoid any sense in which it looks like a collective punishment is being meted out on the Palestinians in Gaza, as well as ensuring that we do nothing that will leave the democracies worse off at the end of this, which is not in line with the principles all of us would wish to hold?
As I said, we support Israel’s right to defend itself, but, as a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians. That is something that I specifically discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we will continue to do so.
A six-year-old Palestinian child was murdered in Chicago because of his Muslim faith, and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas. In the last week, we have seen a sharp rise in Islamophobic rhetoric and the dehumanisation of Palestinians. Tragically, yesterday, we saw the consequences in the murder of that little boy. Will the Prime Minister review his statements about the conflict and ensure that he does not add to the further vilification of Palestinians and Muslims when condemning the actions of Hamas?
I gently urge the hon. Gentleman to examine what I said earlier from the Dispatch Box, particularly about standing with the British Muslim community at this difficult time. We will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in any form, and we will seek to stamp it out wherever it occurs. I am pleased to say that, in June, the Security Minister confirmed additional funding of £24.5 million available this financial year to provide protective security at mosques and Muslim faith schools as a demonstration of our intent to deliver on what I said. But I say to him: please see what I said earlier from the Dispatch Box. We stand with all communities at this difficult time.
In the long litany of attacks against Jews around the world, this is the single most murderous since the end of the Holocaust in 1945. The Prime Minister’s support for the Jewish community in this country and for Israel has been heroic. This is an historic moment, and the response of His Majesty’s Government has been all anyone could have asked. Does the Prime Minister agree that Israel has acted entirely in accordance with international law, despite Hamas using human shields and every type of horrific provocation? Israel has not only a right to defend itself but a duty to defend its people from sadistic and vicious murderers.
My right hon. and learned Friend makes an excellent point that Israel has not just the right but the duty. One only needs to imagine, if a similar incident had occurred in our country, what we would do to secure the safety and security of our citizens. That is what Israel is doing, it has every right and duty to do so, and it will have our support as it does.
I condemn unreservedly the actions of Hamas and the horror that has unfolded in the region, and I ask that the hostages are returned safely as soon as possible. However, from speaking to aid workers based in Gaza, the reality on the ground is that despite the evacuation order, people who are ill, frail, in hospital or just getting old cannot get out. This morning, I spoke to aid workers who told me people are returning from southern Gaza to northern Gaza because they have no water and there is nowhere to go. They cannot escape. Will the Prime Minister urge the Israeli Government to bear in mind the reality for ordinary Palestinian people living in the nightmare that is unfolding around them through no fault of their own?
As I said, I have spoken to President Sisi about the importance of the Rafah crossing being open for humanitarian purposes and I will continue to do so, and about the importance of allowing humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza. Today’s announcement of more support will hopefully make a difference. Again, I contrast Israel’s attempt to minimise civilian casualties by warning people to leave Gaza with Hamas, who are urging the local population to stay to use them as human shields. It is unacceptable, and we should call it out for what it is.
Every tragic loss of life in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas alone. Some people in this place would do well to remember that fact. A week on from the pogroms, what do we have on the streets of Britain? We have some people attending pro-Palestinian marches, holding up banners in support of terrorists, whether it be hang-gliders, chanting anti-Jewish chants, supporting the racist boycott, divestment and sanctions movement or, in the case of a protest in Glasgow, reminding Jews where they were in 1940. Jews need no reminder of where they were in 1940. Those scenes are deeply distressing to British Jews, many of whom do not believe that the police will take action. Could I urge the Prime Minister to look at what some of our European partners are doing, and to take stronger action against some of those marches?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything he does to support the Jewish community in our country. I join him in saying that these acts are appalling. I want to make sure that we provide security and relieve the anxiety in the Jewish community here in the United Kingdom, which is why I quickly took steps last week to provide that reassurance. I am clear that where people incite racial or religious hatred, or where people’s conduct is threatening, abusive or disorderly or causes distress to others, we expect the police to take action, and those committing such crimes should face the full force of the law.
I join this House in its condemnation of the bloodshed in Israel and Palestine. The 2 million Palestinians in the open-air prison of Gaza faced a dire humanitarian emergency long before today, yet indiscriminate airstrikes and siege tactics have turned what was a critical emergency into a devastating catastrophe. Will the Prime Minister make it clear to the Israeli Government that laying siege to civilians in Gaza by cutting off food, water, power and medical supplies and through indiscriminate airstrikes killing civilians is in clear violation of international law? Just what is the international community doing to stop the horrific and inhuman treatment of Palestinians?
I again point out gently to the hon. Gentleman that Hamas are the entity responsible for the suffering we are seeing, and Hamas alone. Of course we in the international community will do our best to alleviate the impact on innocent people, which is why we have today announced further aid to the region. We will make sure that we provide as much humanitarian support as we can and indeed, in all our conversations with leaders around the region, we are discussing the humanitarian situation and finding ways to work together to alleviate the impact on innocent lives, and that is what we will continue to do.
Does the Prime Minister accept that what Hamas did was not terrorism for its own sake, but an act of calculated barbarism with a strategy behind it? The present war will not feature Egypt and Jordan as enemies of Israel as was the case in previous wars, so does he agree that that strategy is to try and prevent similar peace agreements with countries such as Saudi Arabia? Does he accept that Hamas are a creature of a client state of Russia, and while we are talking about this we must remember that Russia is still at war in Ukraine?
I thank my right hon. Friend, and he is right to point to the broader situation and welcome the progress that had been made on normalisation between Israel and other countries in the region, which speaks to the brighter future that we all hope we will see one day. Let me reassure him on our support for Ukraine: we remain committed to that, and just this Friday I was at the Joint Expeditionary Force summit in Sweden talking with our northern European, Scandinavian and Baltic partners and hearing directly from President Zelensky about how we in the JEF will continue to support Ukraine in the coming year. My right hon. Friend can rest assured that we are able to do both.
Noam Sagi, his wife Michal and their son are here today to watch you give your statement, Prime Minister.
Ada Sagi, Noam’s mum, was taken hostage from her home by Hamas on Saturday 7 October, and is currently being held hostage in Gaza. Ada booked a ticket to the UK to celebrate her 75th birthday. Noam has written to the Prime Minister to ask for his immediate intervention and assistance. Joe Biden has made personal calls to his citizens. I ask the Prime Minister if he will please—remember, the family are watching—spare just five minutes to have a quick conversation with them.
Of course I am happy to have a quick conversation, but I am also engaged actively with our partners in the region to try to ensure the safe release of our hostages, which I am sure the House will support me in doing any which way we can. We will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure their safe return, not just for the hon. Lady’s constituents but all those British nationals and others who were taken by Hamas in that appalling act. They should know that we are doing absolutely everything we can to try to bring them back home as quickly and safely as possible.
We in this House are all absolutely horrified by the terrorist atrocities in Israel and the appalling way in which the Hamas terrorists have murdered, tortured and kidnapped men, women and children. I thank the Prime Minister for his important and significant statement today, and for the way in which—as he has just said—we are giving all the support to the grieving families right now. That is paramount. Can he explain from his conversations with President Sisi how the opening of the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt on humanitarian grounds will be undertaken in a way that prevents Hamas terrorists from leaving and potentially creating further atrocities in the region?
My right hon. Friend has made an excellent point. That is why there is complexity to opening the Rafah border crossing, but she should be reassured that we are engaged in those conversations with the Egyptians and with other partners, including the Americans, to find a safe way to open the crossing—ideally, for the evacuation of British nationals who may be in Gaza, but also to send humanitarian support into Gaza, which I know we would all like to see happen.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has stated that
“hospitals in Gaza risk turning into morgues without electricity.”
The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has said that the agency’s colleagues in Gaza are no longer able to provide humanitarian assistance, and the number of people seeking shelter in UNRWA facilities in the south is absolutely overwhelming. Some civilians have no choice but to stay in the north of Gaza, and must be protected at all times. What conversations has the Prime Minister had with his Israeli counterpart about creating safe zones and humanitarian corridors in Gaza? Has the Prime Minister raised the urgent need to prevent the perpetration of atrocities on all civilians? Will he increase financial support for UNRWA, and the surrounding host nations, given that the increasing needs of refugees from Palestine will only, sadly, increase further for many years?
I am proud that over the past few years we have been one of the leading donors to UNRWA, accounting for about 10% of all its support for the region. Today we announced an increase of about a third in our humanitarian support, and we will work with the relevant partners to see how best to ensure that those funds can make a difference in the region as quickly as possible.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing us a one-minute silence to reflect on the victims of what has taken place in the middle east.
There can be no greater contrast between the actions of the Israel defence forces, which attempt to prevent the loss of civilian life, and the sheer brutality of the terrorists who kill and maim as many people as they possibly can. There can be no comparison between those two aspects of what is happening. This operation by the terrorist group Hamas was clearly well planned, well resourced and well equipped, and had clearly been planned for many months. It is beyond belief that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which funds and supports Hamas, was not behind this whole operation. Will my right hon. Friend now take the action that the whole House has asked him to take, and proscribe the IRGC in its entirety?
We have already taken strong action against the Iranian regime, including the sanctioning of 350 individuals and entities including the IRGC in its entirety. Furthermore, the National Security Act 2023 implements new measures to protect the British public, including new offences of espionage and foreign interference and tougher powers to arrest and detain people suspected of involvement in state threats. As the House knows, the Government have a long-standing policy of not commenting on whether specific organisations are being considered for proscription, and our approach, as currently stated, is completely in line with that of our allies.
The Israeli Government have the right, indeed the duty, to protect their civilians against these bloody terrorist attacks, and we wish the Prime Minister well in his advice and guidance to the Israeli Government to enable them to achieve the aims that they need to achieve in protecting their citizens. His statement indicated that we would not tolerate the glorification of terror, which would be met by the full force of the law. Will he therefore join me in condemning the Irish language-speaking school in west Belfast whose students held pro-Palestinian demonstrations this week, which were facilitated within the school? Does he agree that schools should be places where pupils are taught that it is morally wrong to support terrorism, and they should not facilitate such demonstrations?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I do not know the details of the incident that he has described, but he is right that this malicious activity should not be happening in schools. We are absolutely clear about the fact that under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 it is an offence—there is a range of offences—to encourage terrorism, glorify and support groups that have been proscribed as terrorist organisations under UK law. The police will use all the tools at their disposal to stamp that out and arrest those who perpetrate such acts.
One of the many things Bournemouth is known for is its large Jewish community; indeed, our first citizen and mayor, Councillor Anne Filer, is Jewish. Those people in my constituency will have heard and drawn comfort from the calm and measured words of not just the Prime Minister, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, this afternoon. What we have seen is not just an attack on the territorial integrity of Israel, but an attack on Jews and those of the Jewish faith. Will my right hon. Friend join everyone else of good will in this House to make it clear—not just this week, last week, this month, next month, but always—that antisemitism has no place in our society?
I agree with my right hon. Friend. This was an attack on Jews and we should call it out for what it was. That is what Hamas believe and what they have tried to do, but they will meet firm resistance from us. We will not tolerate antisemitism in any form on our streets, not just today or tomorrow, but always.
The Prime Minister has reaffirmed his commitment to a two-state solution. Why, then, have his Government failed to recognise the state of Palestine when 138 United Nations member countries have done so? Israel has absolutely every right to defend itself, but Palestinians need to have that right as well. If recognised as a state, Palestine will be able to root out terrorism and defend its territory. Do the unjustifiable actions of Hamas—a group that do not represent Palestinians—justify the collective punishment of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza by the Israeli defence forces?
The United Kingdom Government’s long-standing position under both parties has been that the United Kingdom will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the object of peace. We are committed to the objective of a sovereign, prosperous and peaceful Palestinian state living side by side with a safe and secure Israel. As last week’s attack demonstrates, right now we must ensure that Israel has that security.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that to conflate Hamas and the Palestinians is not only wrong but dangerous? Hamas have abducted, tortured and executed Palestinian members of Fatah, they have broken the arms of children who have worn Fatah colours to school, and they do not want a two-state solution because they do not believe Israel should exist as a state. But if the fingers on the trigger were Hamas’s, the strings were being pulled from Tehran. With £100 million of investment going from Tehran to the terrorists of Hamas, is it not time that we in this country asked again why Iranian banks are operating from the City of London, why Iran Air is operating from Heathrow airport and why we have not proscribed the IRGC, as I believe we should have?
I agree with my right hon. Friend that, crucially, the Palestinian people are also the victims of Hamas, as he said. Hamas do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations to live with security and dignity. They do not stand for the future that the Palestinian people want, and he is right to highlight that. That is why we have taken the approach that we have, and we will continue to make sure that our sanctions regime is effective. Where we have sanctioned entities, including banks, we will ensure that those sanctions are complied with. The new economic deterrence initiative that we have established with funding will help to ensure that that happens.
I join others in condemning the atrocities of Hamas, and my thoughts are with all those affected by the conflict in Israel and Gaza. One of my constituents, a UK national, is trapped in Gaza, having travelled there on Friday 6 October. I thank the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office staff and those on Labour’s Front Bench for the work they have been doing to try to bring my constituent home. I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on Friday to update him on my constituent’s whereabouts. I ask the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to redouble their efforts to bring my constituent home, to ensure the safe passage of all other UK nationals trapped in Gaza and to work to support people both in Gaza and Israel who are caught up in this terrible conflict.
I thank the hon. Lady and express my sympathies to her constituent and their family. We are in touch with all the families who have registered with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to provide consular assistance to them. Obviously the situation in Gaza is difficult, but we are doing everything that we can, not least through our conversations with the Egyptians about the Rafah crossing. We have pre-emptively deployed a Border Force rapid deployment team to Egypt, so that when and if the crossing is opened, we are able to extract our citizens and bring them home. That is something I have explicitly discussed with President Sisi, to receive assurances from the Egyptians that they will allow the safe passage of British nationals when the time allows. The hon. Lady can rest assured that we will continue to do everything that we can to support her constituent and all others who are trapped.
Modern media have brought the full horror of the profoundly evil crimes committed against state of Israel into our homes, and they are now bringing the unfolding horror of the human catastrophe taking place in Gaza into our sitting rooms as well. In his statement, the Prime Minister indicated that Israel and Egypt are denying access for humanitarian aid into Gaza. What possible reason could there be for that?
As we heard previously, there are complexities with ensuring the safe opening of the Rafah crossing. We are having conversations with the Israelis, the Egyptians and other partners to see how best we can provide humanitarian assistance to the region, not least through the deployment of our Royal Navy assets, which will arrive over the course of the coming week, and the increase in aid funding, which we announced today, that will provide support to people in the region.
The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas against civilians is illegal. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported the use of white phosphorous against civilians in Gaza. Has the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office received confirmation of those reports? If such weapons have been used against civilian populations in Gaza, what will the Prime Minister’s response be?
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and the three-step approach. Terrorism is terrorism. As somebody who comes from a Muslim background, I say this: the actions that we saw with regard to Hamas were clearly terrorist and barbaric, and therefore everything must be done to confront that terrorist organisation.
As the former special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, I worked with people from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. We worked together to tackle intolerance against all people of all faiths. On the specific point about conversations with King Abdullah, Hamas will be defeated, but the question is who replaces Hamas in Gaza. Has the Prime Minister had conversations with King Abdullah with regard to whether President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are prepared to step in, with the support of international partners and humanitarian assistance? Everything must be done to preserve human life and find a two-state solution in this matter.
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent question and reassure him that exactly that was part of the conversations I had both yesterday, with the King of Jordan, and today with President Abbas. We need to provide stable leadership in Gaza once Hamas have, hopefully, been removed. That thinking is already happening among us and our partners.
On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I condemn the atrocities of Hamas. Our thoughts are with all the Israeli and Palestinian civilians killed, injured or bereaved in this horrific conflict.
International humanitarian law exists for a reason: to safeguard all civilians, universally. Among the rights under that law is the right to water. Fuel is necessary for many people in Palestine to have safe drinking water. Without clean water, people will die. The Prime Minister has announced humanitarian support today, which I welcome. As a close ally of Israel, what steps is he taking to urge Israel to comply fully with international law, including by supplying essential fuel to Gaza?
I commend the calm leadership of my right hon. Friend over the past few days, as well as that of the Leader of the Opposition.
Some people forget that the reason we defend Israel’s right to exist and its security is that 6 million Jews were murdered due to a perverted ideology, and we must never return to that. That is why we stand with Israel in its time of absolute need.
I have a Jewish sister-in-law. She is quite clear that she has never felt more threatened than she did this weekend when she saw people take to the streets waving flags bearing Hamas’s crest—I do not know whether the Prime Minister saw this—and calling for Israel to be swept “from the river to the sea”. This is all about getting rid of the Jews in Palestine; there is no question about it. We must be clear about this: we have to protect the Jewish people here, who are British citizens, and we must stamp out antisemitism. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend whether we will redouble our efforts to ensure that, if ever such scenes were to happen again, the people bearing those flags and hurling that abuse would be arrested and prosecuted with the full strength of the law.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent contribution. He is right: there is no place for demonstrations, convoys or flag waving on British streets that glorifies terrorism or harasses the Jewish community. That is why, last week, I met police chiefs and people from the Community Security Trust in Downing Street to discuss how better we can protect the Jewish community at this time and police these protests appropriately. I am pleased that that work is ongoing, but of course we will remain engaged with all partners. As my right hon. Friend said, anyone who breaks the law should be met with the full force of the law and be swiftly arrested. Many people will have seen incidents online and footage of scenes that are simply unacceptable. I can reassure him that the police are currently reviewing that footage and, where possible and where they can, they will arrest those responsible.
The acts of terror that were committed by Hamas were horrifying, and our prayers go out to everyone affected, both in Israel and across the world, and those who are here in the House today. Israel is seeking justice, but innocent Palestinians must not collectively pay the price. I urge the Prime Minister to seek guarantees from the Israeli Government on four crucial points: first, that incendiary weapons will not be used in civilian areas; secondly, that hospitals and medics will not be targeted; thirdly, that food, water and electricity supplies must be immediately restored; and, finally, that we must not see military occupation and annexation of Gazan land.
Since the Hamas terrorist attack, the unequivocal Government support and concern for the safety and welfare of the UK Jewish community has been extremely well received by those in that community, and no one has shown greater care than my right hon. Friend, whom I would like to thank. Over the coming days, as Israel takes the remedial and self-defence action that it has been forced to take, can my right hon. Friend confirm that he will work with our international allies to ensure continued support for Israel, such that Israel is not left out on a limb, on its own, to be picked off by enemies?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words and agree that we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself. We remain engaged in the region, talking to our partners, so that we can provide Israel with all the support that we can, defend its position and also provide humanitarian support to alleviate the impact as best we can.
My thoughts and prayers are with all the families who are grieving following the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas, which I unreservedly condemn. These atrocities were committed by terrorists who do not seek peace, and they have set back the just cause of Palestinian freedom and statehood, which I, along with many across this House, have long supported.
Over a million Palestinians in Gaza have been told to flee, highlighting the scale of the impending humanitarian disaster, which will only inflame tension in the region. There are grave concerns about the escalation of the conflict in the wider region. Can the Prime Minister tell the House what particular steps our Government are taking to help de-escalate the conflict, which risks turning into a wider regional conflict, drawing in Lebanon and Iran?
Both the Foreign Secretary and I are speaking extensively to all our partners in the region to urge everybody to put pressure on those who would seek to take advantage of the situation not to. As I said, we have deployed surveillance aircraft to the Mediterranean, not least to ensure that Hezbollah is not in receipt of extra arms shipments, because that would be damaging to regional stability. We will continue to make sure that that does not happen.
In 2013, I took a group of schoolchildren from the Beit Shvidler Primary School in Edgware to the Hanukkah party at No. 10. A leading voice of the choir was Nathanel Young, one of the first people to be killed in the terrorist attack in Israel. Will the Prime Minister advise the House what actions have been taken for the bereaved families and the families of the 17 hostages who remain in Gaza, and what consular support that will entail?
I express again my sympathies to all those families who have been impacted by the appalling situation in Israel in this terrorist attack. I was in my hon. Friend’s constituency this morning and saw at first hand the impact that this was having on the community there. I assure him that the Foreign Office is providing extensive consular support to all families who are impacted, and we will continue to do so throughout this crisis.
I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
I wish to put on record my utter condemnation of the Hamas attacks. Israeli hostages must be released. Over the last week, we have all seen horrific images of innocent Israelis and Palestinians on our screens—it has been awful. What struck me was a quote that I have seen from an aid worker in Gaza from Medical Aid for Palestinians. Mahmoud Shalabi said:
“I’ve seen kids write their names on their palms, because when they die they want people to know who they are.”
That is because in Gaza, families are being wiped out.
Across the globe, there has been a collective outcry for the people of Gaza, most of whom, as the Prime Minister has said, have nothing to do with Hamas. Has the Prime Minister pledged funding or support for the safety of children and their access to healthcare in hospitals? What is he doing to facilitate the opening of the border for aid? Humanitarian access is so important, so that foreign nationals can leave Gaza.
I have specifically spoken to President Sisi about the importance of opening the Rafah border crossing, both for humanitarian purposes and to provide for the safe evacuation of British nationals. Today, we have announced an increase in our aid funding to the region by around a third, and we will figure out how best that money can help those who need it as quickly as possible.
On international law and media impartiality, will the Attorney General be asked to provide a legal note, if not a full opinion, given, for example, that one of Ofcom’s directors—Ofcom having full statutory and regulatory responsibility for all visual and oral media, including the BBC—is reported to be supporting posts this week arguing that the Government’s support for Israel is a “vile colonial alliance”, and referring to
“ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians”?
Ofcom must surely be told that it must deal with this at once as a matter of impartiality, quite apart from any criminal action that may be needed under terrorist or criminal law.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I will ensure that the Attorney General looks into it, and more generally, I will just say that I absolutely endorse those describing these attacks as what they are, which is acts of terror by a terrorist organisation. Obviously the BBC is editorially and operationally independent of Government, but the Culture Secretary raised that specific issue with the BBC director general last week.
Hamas’s kidnapping of 200 Israelis is a stark reminder that the terrorist group have learned from their paymasters, the Iranian regime, who for years have promoted state hostage taking, including, of course, of UK nationals. Will the Prime Minister say a bit more about the steps that the UK Government are taking for the release of the British nationals who are currently held in Gaza?
As I said, we are providing consular support to the affected families. We recognise that this will be a very difficult time for them. We have, for a long time, maintained Foreign Office travel advice that people should not travel to Gaza, because we know the situation is dangerous. We are working as hard as we can to open the Rafah crossing, and the Border Force team has already been deployed to Egypt so that, if and when the crossing is opened, we will rapidly be in a position to be able to bring people home.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s most powerful statement in robustly standing with Israel in its mission to defeat Hamas after their brutal terrorist offensive last week. This has rightly been called Israel’s 9/11, but we now appreciate that, following those attacks on America in 2001, grave operational and strategic errors were made, however well-intentioned, in the name of defeating terrorism. That led to significant escalation and, indeed, radicalisation.
How events play out in the next few days will have severe repercussions across the middle east and beyond for years. With no emergency governance, security or humanitarian plans yet confirmed, does the Prime Minister agree that, if we are a true friend of Israel, we should counsel against a full-scale ground invasion at this time, as it will see this conflict spill into the west bank, East Jerusalem and southern—
Of course every country has the right to defend itself, and it would not be appropriate for the UK to define that approach. I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks. We will continue to stand with Israel and, as a friend, we will urge them to take every possible precaution to minimise the impact on civilians.
As you are aware, Mr Speaker, my immediate family are from the west bank, but I have extended family in Gaza city. Their house was bombed by the IDF, so they went to seek sanctuary in a church—we are Christian Palestinians—and I am afraid to say that they are still there, because they are too old to leave. They say to me that they have nowhere to go.
Because of this, not despite it, I attended a vigil in Oxford organised by the Jewish community. Between our communities, we now share profound emotions, loss and grief. When the Prime Minister says never again, I agree with him. Will he give his assurance that it will be never again and that, whenever we get through whatever happens in the next few days, he will keep the promise he made to my great-grandfather that there will be a Palestinian state to call our own at the end of it?
I start by expressing my sympathies to the hon. Lady and her family for what they are going through. I know this will have been an incredibly difficult time for them. I also pay tribute to her, because her presence at the vigil, in spite of everything, will have meant an enormous amount to many people, and the courage she shows in talking about that experience here today is admirable. She looks forward to a more positive future, which is an ambition I share.
This is an unspeakably difficult situation, a tragedy, but we must find a way to move forward to secure a more stable, peaceful settlement for those living in the middle east, because this tragedy has reminded us all of the horrors of war and the horrors of terrorism. We must find a way to bring peace and stability to the region, and that is what I will strive very hard to help bring about.
As a child of Northern Ireland, I will never forget how frightening it is to be in a schoolroom when a bomb goes off across the road. The Hamas atrocities of last weekend rewrote the definition of evil. The Prime Minister is right to have condemned Hamas, he is right to have stood beside the Jewish population and he is right to have stood by Israel’s duty to defend itself. But our history also tells us that terrorism is rarely defeated by further terror, so he is right also to be concerned for innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire and who are being used as human shields. I thank him for what he said about the need for Israel to stay within international law, and for the additional aid we have pledged today. May I urge him to try to get that aid to the people who need it as quickly as possible?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her contribution, and I can give her that reassurance. I know that she will have advice for us on how best we can do that. We are keen to make sure that that aid makes a difference to as many people as quickly as possible, and we will be working with partners to make sure that that happens.
Hamas knew what would happen to the people that they purport to represent after their atrocious terrorist actions. They knew that it would rain down fear and pain and killing in the region. Anybody in our country who purports to support them deserves, as the Prime Minister says, the full force of the law. I thank the Prime Minister for saying that more aid will be going to Gaza, but I want to know, from conversations that he has had with Israel, which he said he has had today, what progress has been made to ensure that that aid—medical supplies, fuel and water—will actually reach the people of Gaza? As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) said, people have nowhere to go. Nothing is getting through, so what is Israel going to do to ensure that British aid can reach Gazans?
It is also important that Egypt is involved in that conversation because the Rafah crossing is one of the primary routes for aid to reach Gaza. That is why we have spoken specifically with President Sisi about that, and we will continue to talk with him and other regional allies to find ways to bring humanitarian aid to the region as quickly as possible.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and for his unequivocal condemnation of calculated acts of murder and hostage taking, which are deliberately designed to provoke a response that plunges the entire region, if not the wider world, into greater conflict. What assessment are my right hon. Friend and the Government making of current escalations on the northern border of Israel and Lebanon? We heard this afternoon of an evacuation of Israeli citizens within 2 km of the border. Does he think that that might well be a further escalation of the situation, and all part of a calculated plan to plunge the region into chaos?
We absolutely do not want to see regional escalation. One of the ways that we can help to ensure that that does not happen—my right hon. and learned Friend specifically mentioned Lebanon—is the deployment of our surveillance assets, which went into the region last week, with further to follow by the end of this week. One of the things that they can do is track and interdict armed shipments that might be going to Hezbollah, for example. That is something that none of us will want to see, which is why we have deployed those assets. Partners are grateful for our intervention, because no one wants to see an escalation of this conflict.
Some of the most vulnerable citizens in the event of war are people with disabilities, so what representations have the Government made for the protection particularly of people with disabilities in northern Gaza who are unable to move?
During the Prime Minister’s school visit this morning we heard incredibly powerful speeches from students about the situation, showing the anguish felt about the worst attack on Jewish people since the holocaust. In the light of that, will he ensure that the unequivocal support for Israel that he has expressed today is maintained and does not weaken in the difficult days ahead as Israel does what it has to do to remove the capacity of Hamas ever to do this again?
I thank my right hon. Friend for welcoming me to her constituency this morning, and for joining me on what was an incredibly powerful visit to one of her local schools. I praise the courage and eloquence of the students we heard, who were incredible in explaining how this has affected them and their families. She has my assurance that we will continue to stand with Israel, as I said this morning, not just today, not just tomorrow, but always.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that the unspeakable actions of Hamas mean that Israel has not simply the right but a duty to protect its own citizens. However, Israel also has a duty to protect innocent Palestinians. How does Israel cutting off food and water seriously bring the hostages home and help to defeat Hamas?
On Saturday, I met in Rawtenstall representatives of the British Muslim and British Palestinian communities of east Lancashire. They were united in one voice condemning the appalling actions of Hamas in the barbarous murder of Jewish people. They will have been heartened to hear the Prime Minister say that we stand with both the British Muslim community and the British Jewish community at this very difficult time. They want to see Israel comply with international law; they want humanitarian corridors to remain open to enable innocent Gazans to escape. How will the deployment of the Royal Navy help to ensure that that happens?
I know that this is important to my right hon. Friend. Like him, we recognise that this is a moment of anguish for British Muslim communities, who are appalled by the actions of Hamas but fearful of the response. As I said, we mourn the loss of every innocent life—of the civilians of every faith and nationality who have been killed. Our Navy assets can help, as I have said, to ensure that illegal arms shipments do not find their way to people such as Hezbollah. Also, the assets that we are deploying next week will be there as a contingency and can provide humanitarian assistance if and as required, which will be a valuable contribution to the role we play.
We in Walthamstow stand in solidarity with our neighbour, who is in Parliament today pleading for help to get her elderly parents back after they were brutally taken hostage by Hamas. We are also desperately worried about families from our community who are stuck in Gaza—UK citizens trying to get home. We believe that every life deserves the protection of international law, and that anyone who breaks it should be held to account.
My constituents are also asking what more we can do by using our international connections. As the Prime Minister will have seen, it has been reported today that the Qataris have brokered a deal to ensure that Ukrainian children kidnapped in Russia are returned home to their families. What conversations has he had with the Qataris about whether they might play a similar role, stopping the violence in Gaza accordingly?
I assure the hon. Lady that we are talking to all leaders across the region. Indeed, I am due to speak to the Qatari leadership—maybe even today—so that we can work with them and others to ensure the safe return of hostages and to de-escalate the situation.
I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests relating to my visit to Israel and Palestine in May this year. The median age of a Palestinian in Gaza is 18 years. In the west bank, the median age is 21 years, and in Israel it is 29. If we do not sort out this long-term conflict quickly and permanently, we will have generations of young people affected in both Palestine and Israel, more radicalisation, and more tragedy for families living in those countries. Can my right hon. Friend elaborate further on his comments about a peace process that will have a lasting impact, and on a two-state solution?
It is precisely because Hamas have tried to kill off that notion of a peaceful settlement for the middle east—peace, stability and security for both the Palestinian and Israeli communities—that we must redouble our efforts to bring it about. That has very much been the subject of the conversations that I have had and will continue to have with leaders from around the region. If we can contribute to that in any way, we will.
I thank the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition for their statements. What role does the Prime Minister see for the United Nations in providing much-needed humanitarian relief in the region, particularly in Gaza, and in trying to get a new peace process off the ground? I know that that will be difficult, but it is badly needed.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. The United Nations can play a significant role when it comes to the humanitarian side. Indeed, around three quarters of our existing aid to the region is channelled through the UN, particularly the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which was referred to earlier. I am sure that it will continue to play a valuable role going forward.
Leeds has a proud Jewish community, including in my own constituency. It is not just the barbarity that we saw in the Hamas attack—burning, murdering, mutilation and rape—that is making my Jewish constituents fearful, but the fact that we came through several years where antisemitism had been given a safe space in this country and that there are now protests on the street pushing forward the antisemitic message. Every day, they are worried about how they go about living their normal life. As such, I thank my right hon. Friend for the £3 million of investment he has announced for security, but ask him to keep a close eye on whether more is needed. I cannot emphasise enough that the Jewish community in my constituency, and probably across the country, is fearful all the time.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments—he is rightly a champion of the Jewish community in his constituency. Like him, I am clear that there is zero tolerance of antisemitism in the UK. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure the security and safety of our Jewish citizens.
I stand with this House in condemnation of Hamas’s appalling killing of innocent Israeli civilians and call for the immediate safe return of all the hostages, but I am very concerned about the increasing numbers of deaths of innocent Palestinians. The forced mass displacement of Gazans is leading to a massive humanitarian crisis, so can the Prime Minister explain what the Government are doing to prevent this? Has he demanded an immediate ceasefire to end the collective punishment of civilians?
I believe that we must absolutely support Israel’s right to defend itself and to ensure that attacks like this cannot happen again, but as a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians, and we will provide humanitarian support.
This morning, I was contacted by a constituent who, on visiting London on Saturday, was deeply disturbed by the pro-Hamas chants that were being shouted, the destruction of national monuments, the fact that the main stage for the protest was right next to the Cenotaph, and media reports of somebody with a Union Jack being detained and led away. What representations are going to be made to the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan police so that future protests are policed appropriately?
We have ensured that the police have the tools, powers and guidance they need to police these protests appropriately. Obviously, this is a difficult situation. I am thankful to them for what they did over the weekend: they have made, I think, over 20 arrests, and as I said, they are currently reviewing footage of some of the things we have seen after the fact. Where they can, they will make further arrests, but we are clear: people may be free to express their views, but where they are inciting racial or religious hatred, that is against the law and they will meet the full force of the law as a result.
Over the weekend, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that
“The price of evil cannot be paid by the innocent”,
yet in Gaza, Palestinians have had no access to food, water or electricity for over a week. We have seen an evacuation order that has left people with an impossible choice. Constituents in Luton North have spoken to me about their pain and anguish at the unimaginable loss of lives in Gaza, so many of which are children, all following the despicable attack of terror carried out by Hamas. Even at times of war, there are still laws, so as well as the urgent and desperate need for humanitarian aid and corridors, what are Ministers doing to counter breaches of international law that risk the further loss of innocent life and threaten the possibility of peace in the middle east?
It is Hamas alone who are responsible for this conflict, and we support Israel in taking action against terrorism and to defend itself. Hamas have also enmeshed themselves in the civilian population in Gaza and are using them as a human shield. We will continue, as a friend, to call on Israel to do everything it can to reduce the impact on human life, and we will continue to support the area with humanitarian support.
Is it not the case that Israel’s best hope for its future security in its justified response to Hamas’s atrocity is to treat the civilian populations in Gaza and the west bank with the full respect that the laws of war and civilised nations demand, or else this tragic cycle of violence will simply repeat itself in the years to come?
As I said, we must support Israel’s right to defend itself—to go after Hamas—and recognise that it faces a vicious enemy who are embedding themselves behind civilians, but it will do so in accordance with international law. As a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians.
I join the Prime Minister in strongly condemning the despicable, horrendous acts by Hamas last week. It was and is an ongoing war crime. Of course, though, one war crime does not excuse another, so will the Prime Minister please speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu and ask him to stop dropping bombs on innocent children in Gaza? Some of us know all too well that unspeakable violence should not be met with unspeakable violence. We know in Ireland that the only option is to relentlessly pursue peace through dialogue.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Israeli President’s words, where he has been clear that the Israelis are working operationally according to the rules of international law. They will exercise their lawful right to defend themselves, and as a friend we will continue to call on them to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians.
The barbaric terrorism at the hands of Hamas saw babies and children robbed of their futures in the most brutal way. The victims were male and female, young and old. One of the victims was Bernard Cowan, who moved from Newton Mearns to Israel. Last week, his mother, Irene, joined many others at a service of solidarity and lit a candle in his memory. We grieve and think of all the victims, and indeed of all the families of the hostages. Jewish communities in Scotland are worried about their safety, so I ask the Prime Minister, what action can and are the UK Government taking to ensure that Jewish communities in every part of the United Kingdom feel safe at this terrible time?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything he is doing to support the Jewish communities in Scotland. I agree with him that there is zero tolerance in our society for antisemitism, which is why we have provided extra funding to the Community Security Trust to ensure the safety and security of Jewish institutions, schools and synagogues, and clear guidance to the police so that they can step in and take action where someone is breaking the law.
After the brutal terror atrocities carried out by Hamas, which tragically led to the deaths of over 1,000 Israelis, the Israeli Government of course have a duty to defend their citizens, but that must be proportionate and in line with international law. We must also condemn any indiscriminate killing or forcible eviction from their land of the Palestinian people, who have suffered so much for several decades and are now facing horrors on an unimaginable scale. Does the Prime Minister agree that there must be no collective punishment of Palestinians, that we must strive for peace and that there must be a humanitarian effort by the international community to avert furthering a crisis?
We are working with our partners to bring humanitarian support to the region. Again, today we announced a significant increase in our humanitarian funding for the region, which comes on top of what is strong support already. We will continue to talk to partners about how best to ensure that humanitarian aid finds its way to the people who need it.
I warmly commend the Prime Minister for the strength and clarity of his statement and for his support for Israel, his condemnation of Hamas and his deep concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. I also thank him for being so strongly supportive of the Jewish and Israeli communities in Britain, but is he aware of an organisation called Palestine Action, which has this weekend listed a series of companies and the directors of those companies whom it believes to be legitimate targets for terrorist action? Will he now name this outfit, Palestine Action, and condemn what it is doing, and will he ask the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to act without further delay to deal with it?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I am sure he will understand that arrests are an operational matter for the police, but obviously what he has said, on the face of it, sounds concerning. The police have powers, under the Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006, to arrest people who are supporting either terrorism or proscribed terrorist organisations, and I would expect them to use the full powers available to them to prosecute people under the law.
Our thoughts at this time must above all be with the Israeli and Palestinian civilian dead and injured, and with the hostages. According to Medical Aid for Palestinians, over 2,700 Palestinians have been killed so far in air attacks, more than a quarter of them children, and this is before any ground invasion. What practical help can the Government offer the 2 million people of Gaza, and the UK citizens such as my constituents who are trapped at the Rafah border and under constant threat from bombing and shelling?
We continue to be in dialogue with partners, notably with the Egyptians about the Rafah crossing, and in anticipation we have deployed a Border Force team to Egypt to bring people safely home if and when that crossing is opened. In the meantime, the FCDO is providing consular assistance to all those families who are in contact with it and are currently in Gaza.
I thank the Prime Minister for his powerful statement and, like colleagues across the House, I join him in condemning the acts of Hamas. Hamas, Hezbollah and a multitude of other terrorist organisations get their logistical, administrative, financial and armament support from Iran. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that he will act with our international partners to do everything to isolate Iran and to increase economic sanctions?
Hamas are fully responsible for the appalling act of terror that has taken place, but Iran does pose an unacceptable threat to Israel, including through its long-term support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. I reassure my hon. Friend that we are working with our allies, as we have been for a while, to decide how best to deal with the destabilising actions of the Iranian regime in the region.
I echo the Prime Minister’s unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and their appalling acts of terrorist violence. International humanitarian law demands that any Israeli response must be legal and proportionate. Does the Prime Minister agree that, regardless of the circumstances, the collective punishment of an entire civilian population—one that involves forced displacement and the cutting off of water, food, fuel and medicine—can never be legal or proportionate?
I believe that we must support absolutely Israel’s right to defend itself, to go after Hamas and to ensure its security in the long term and that such acts cannot happen again. As a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians.
Greater Manchester is home to a large and vibrant Jewish community. They are our neighbours, our friends and our families. It is also home to a sizeable presence of the BBC which, when faced with child murder, rape and torture, decided that Hamas should be called militants rather than terrorists. The political leaders of this country and our royal family can decide that they are terrorists; why cannot our national broadcaster?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I absolutely endorse those who, in describing these attacks, call them what they are: attacks of terror by a terrorist organisation. My hon. Friend will know that the BBC is editorially and operationally independent of the Government, but the Culture Secretary has raised this issue directly with the director general and we wait to see.
My thoughts go out to everyone affected by the terrible violence in Israel and Palestine. I thank the Prime Minister for his announcement of additional funding for humanitarian aid. I press upon him the need to integrate a framework of atrocity prevention into the UK’s strategy, to ensure that UK officials are able to properly centre its treaty and ethical obligations throughout its response to the crisis, and to resource UK country teams and relevant officials with urgent atrocity prevention and response training, expertise, guidance and leadership.
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. The existing support that we provide to the region ensures the stability of the Palestinian Authority, for example, and helps to build capability there. We will work with partners to make sure that the new money we announced today can be used in the most effective and quickest way possible.
Two weeks ago at conference, we were brought to tears listening to Hannah Lewis, a holocaust survivor, describe watching, at the age of seven, her mother get shot in the head—a scene that broke her heart, and that broke ours, too, as she spoke. Five days later, holocaust survivors were kidnapped or killed, babies were slaughtered, women my age were raped next to the bodies of their friends and then killed, and hostages were paraded through the streets of Gaza and spat on. That was the reality that unfolded in front of holocaust survivors and their families. My own staff member shared the story of his 10-day-old cousin, who was surrounded by Hamas trying to murder them. Will the Prime Minister join me in utterly condemning the acts of Hamas and in saying that we will never forget and that “never again” really does mean never again?
I thank my hon. Friend for her powerful statement and for all the work she does to support this cause in the country. I agree with her wholeheartedly in unequivocally condemning this act of barbarity as well as saying that there is no place in our society for antisemitism. She is right: we must never forget. I praise her work and that of the Holocaust Educational Trust and others for making sure that we never will.
I wish that the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas last week had been truly exceptional, but the truth is that they reminded me of what the Russians did last year in Bucha in Ukraine. They also brought to mind how the first place the Russians targeted in Kyiv was a Jewish cemetery. There is a pattern here, and actually there is a network around the world. So while of course we must ensure that Israel is able to do everything it can to defend itself—and we stand with every single person in this country who has a friend or family member either in Gaza or in Israel, who will be terrified about what will happen to them in the next few days—we also have to tackle this network, do we not? Does that not mean having some tough words with Qatar in particular about why it has hosted so many people from Hamas over recent years?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his powerful words. We will continue to speak to all leaders in the region to find ways to de-escalate the crisis and ensure that we can bring about an end to the evil that Hamas represent. He is right that it is not just limited to this particular conflict; it is much more widespread. That is why we need to work with our allies to stamp it out across the world.
Hamas are an Iranian proxy terror organisation, designated as such under the Terrorism Act 2000. Credible reports indicate that the 7 October attacks were planned in concert with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. For many years, hon. Members have been calling for the IRGC to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, and those calls have been repeated today. While I understand that the Government do not indicate in advance what action they intend to take under the Terrorism Act, may I assure my right hon. Friend that if hon. Members were to wake up tomorrow morning and hear on the news that it had been so designated today, they would be extremely relieved and grateful to him.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that Iran both poses an unacceptable threat to Israel and has a destabilising influence throughout the region. That is why we have sanctioned more than 350 Iranian individuals, including the entirety of the IRGC. The new National Security Act 2023 also gives us the powers that we need to keep us safe here at home. I assure him that we will continue to work closely with our allies in finding the best possible way to contain Iran’s pernicious activities.
I represent one of this country’s biggest Jewish communities, in my constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn. Following Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel, there has been an increase in antisemitic incidents in my local area. Most heartbreakingly, I have had emails from local parents who are very worried about their children going to a local Jewish school because aggressive men have been standing outside taking photos. Some of the parents have had their car tyres slashed. The Prime Minister has pledged support to Jewish institutions, but will he commit publicly to ensuring that the support actually reaches local Jewish schools? Will he provide some much-needed reassurance to parents in Hampstead and Kilburn?
The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. This morning I visited a Jewish school in north London to ensure that the community there knew that I will do everything I can to keep them safe. That is why last week I met with the Community Security Trust, which does an excellent job. We have provided it with extra funding, which it will ensure gets to the frontline, whether that is to schools, synagogues or other institutions. We will continue to do everything we can to keep our Jewish communities safe. What is happening to our schoolchildren is simply unacceptable and sickening, and we will work very hard to bring it to an end.
I think it is disgusting to choose the day after the massacre to start waving Palestinian flags outside the Israeli embassy. I also find what happened at the Cenotaph disgusting, but those who are explicitly pro-Hamas are on a different level. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is important to work with the Home Office and, where possible, to deport these individuals, because they do not share our values and they are not welcome in this country?
The military wing of Hamas has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK for some time, in addition to the political wing more recently. Once a group is proscribed, it is a criminal offence for people in the UK to do various things in support of that organisation, under the Terrorism Act 2000. Furthermore, the Terrorism Act 2006 created the offence of the encouragement of terrorism, which gives the police the powers and tools they need to arrest those individuals who are perpetrating that kind of support. I will ensure that they face the full force of the law.
I utterly condemn the barbaric attacks by Hamas and call for the unconditional release of all those taken hostage. These are horrific acts of terrorism and constitute war crimes. Israel does have a right to self-defence, but the collective punishment of the people of Gaza is also a war crime. Those two things can both be true. The killing of over 2,600 civilians by the IDF is not only a humanitarian catastrophe but risks driving the deadly cycle of violence still further. I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that he is straining every sinew to keep the flame of peace and stability alive, so will he listen to those UN experts calling for a ceasefire? What more will he do to promote a renewed international effort towards two legally recognised separate states, safe within their own borders?
It is that vision of a safe and secure two-state solution that Hamas have tried to kill off with their terrorist atrocities over the past week. That is why I absolutely support Israel’s right to defend itself. It must be able to go after Hamas to take back hostages, to strengthen its security for the long term and to ensure that this cannot happen again. As a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians, and we will continue to work with international partners to bring humanitarian support to the region.
Given the appalling terrorist atrocities and wider events of the past 10 days, not to mention the division we are now seeing in our streets, does the Prime Minister agree that it is time for cool heads, dialling down the rhetoric, restraint and objective leadership right across the political community, with a view to providing humanitarian support in Gaza, defeating Hamas and bringing people home?
Those are all the right objectives, and we are working on all three, particularly working with regional partners to de-escalate violence, but also bringing humanitarian support to the region and thinking about a brighter future where people can live peacefully and securely side by side.
As well as the discussions that the Prime Minister has had with his international counterparts, can he tell us what discussions the Government have had with international aid organisations, particularly on ensuring that if the Rafah border crossing is opened to allow a humanitarian corridor, the aid is successfully co-ordinated? Have there been discussions about who will take responsibility for displaced Palestinian civilians, who will have nowhere to go? Does he support the principle that those Palestinian civilians have the right to return home at the earliest opportunity?
I am proud that we have been a long-standing, significant supporter of aid to the region, and have regular dialogue with agencies such as the UN. Our support to the UN directly helps around 5.8 million Palestinians refugees every year over the past few years. We have announced an increase in that funding today by around a third, which is significant. We will work with partner agencies to find the most effective and quickest way to get that aid to the people who need it.
In unequivocally condemning the barbarity of Hamas, I associate myself with the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) a few moments ago about the IRGC and Iran. May I ask specifically about the aid that we have pledged today for Palestinians? Clearly, we have seen that Hamas have been misappropriating aid, including using piping designed for water to fire missiles at Israel. How will we make sure that aid that goes into the Gaza strip is not used to strengthen Hamas?
That is a very good question from my right hon. Friend, and it is something we review and monitor very carefully. We channel the vast majority of our aid for the Palestinian territories through the UN, and it is almost overwhelmingly on humanitarian purposes—health, education and the protection services for Palestinians. We do not provide any bilateral financing aid into the region, which should give him some reassurance. With the new investments announced today, we will of course ensure that it goes on the things we care about and to the people we care about.
I agree with the Prime Minister that Israel’s response needs to be constrained by international humanitarian law. What steps will the Government be taking to monitor compliance with those constraints in the coming days, and how many days does he think it will now be before urgently needed humanitarian relief can be taken into Gaza?
We are doing everything we can to support humanitarian efforts, moving aid into the region as quickly as we can. We will continue to have conversations with all our counterparts in the region to make sure that that aid gets there as quickly as humanly possible.
I stand with my constituents in Bolton in condemning the acts of terror committed by Hamas, who have targeted not only innocent adults but, even more barbarically, children. At the onset of the horrific atrocities, the Government rightly reach out their hand to the victims of unspeakable terrorism. Does the Prime Minister agree with me and my constituents that the people of Gaza must be treated fairly, within the bounds of international law, and that we refuse to accept an all-out humanitarian crisis?
We do support Israel’s right to defend itself and, as a friend, we will continue to call on Israel to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians. We will do everything we can to bring humanitarian support to the people of Gaza as quickly as practically possible.
The targeted killing of civilians, whether Israeli or Palestinian, must be condemned, as must the kidnapping of hostages. The civilians of Gaza should not be made to pay the price for the atrocities of Hamas. Blocking children’s access to food goes beyond self-defence; it is a violation of international law. The World Health Organisation has described forcing patients to relocate from hospitals as tantamount to a death sentence for some. Will the Prime Minister do anything he can to convince the Israeli Government to cancel the relocation order, lift the siege and end indiscriminate bombing?
I must gently point out to the hon. Lady that it is not Israel that is deliberately targeting civilians in Gaza; it is Hamas who are enmeshing themselves in the civilian population and using people as human shields. She talks about people moving but, again, Israel is attempting to minimise the impact on civilians by asking people to leave northern Gaza, and it is Hamas who are telling people to stay and using them as human shields.
We should all have no time for those who express sympathy for the terrorists of Hamas, and we should have no time for those who amplify their horrible messages either. Will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the actions of the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology in trying to call the social media giants to account, and will he join me in encouraging them both to co-operate with the police in this country in their investigations and to do the same to try to minimise their impact abroad?
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent point. More broadly, I want to make the point that online offending is as serious as offline offending. We have robust legislation in place to deal with threatening and abusive behaviour or behaviour that is intended or likely to stir up hatred, and it applies whether the behaviour takes place online or offline. We are working closely with the police and the internet companies to make sure that those who break those rules meet the full force of the law.
Following the horror of Hamas’s appalling terrorist attack it is crucial, as others have said, that we distinguish between Hamas and innocent Palestinian civilians, in line with international humanitarian law. The United Nations Population Fund says that there are 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, with 5,500 due to give birth this month. What efforts are being made to ensure that Gaza’s hospitals are protected and able to operate for those pregnant women, newborns, children and all others who need urgent medical attention?
This is an incredibly difficult time, with an impact on many, and it is important that we recognise and remember that the people responsible for bringing it about are solely and unequivocally Hamas, with their appalling acts over the last week. As Israel takes steps, rightly, to defend itself, we will continue to call on it to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians. We are doing everything we can to bring humanitarian support into the region.
Does the Prime Minister agree that we face a grave and dangerous moment in the middle east, which has been the result of myriad policy failures going back more than 25 years, and that a vacuum has been created where countries such as Iran, through its Hamas and Hezbollah proxies, are testing the will of Israel and the west as they seek to destabilise the region? I urge the Prime Minister to work with the US and other allies to ensure that they do not succeed, and that we show the same resolve on this era-defining moment as we did with our support for Ukraine.
I thank my hon. Friend for what he said. He is absolutely right: we must stand resolutely with Israel and also with our allies, such as the US, to demonstrate that Hamas’s terrorism will not prevail. We will ensure not only that Israel can defend itself, but that we work with partners to bring peace and stability to the region that everyone living there deserves.
The barbarism unleashed last weekend is unparalleled in the history of the state of Israel. Israel unequivocally has the right to defend itself, and yet it remains the case that half the population of Gaza are children under the age of 18, of whom around 500 are believed to have died already. I welcome very much the additional aid provided, but with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency warning that its ability to provide relief is running out today, can the Prime Minister use every channel to drive home the message that humanitarian aid delayed risks being aid too late?
Order. I know that a lot of people are disappointed that they have not been able to ask their particular question, but the House is grateful to the Prime Minister for having been at the Dispatch Box for two hours. I must point out in advance to all those colleagues who will come and complain to me about not being able to speak that the House has been asking the Prime Minister to use his diplomatic skills to the best of his ability on behalf of our country, so I think we must release him from the Chamber to allow him to do so. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you for granting this point of order. I appreciate that the Prime Minister was at the Dispatch Box for nearly two hours, but as a result of the importance and the magnitude of this issue and the complexity and nature of our questions, nearly 50 Members did not get a chance to speak. Will you, Madam Deputy Speaker, do everything that you can to ensure that time will be afforded to us during the rest of this week and going forward so that we can debate and discuss this very important issue?
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues are making themselves available to speak to colleagues, because we are very aware that they will have constituency issues to discuss.
I am very grateful to the Leader of the House for giving that immediate answer. I hope the hon. Lady and the rest of the House will appreciate that Ministers are doing their best to make themselves available, especially where there are particular issues relating to constituents.
I hope the House will settle down, as we move on to the next item of business. Will those who are leaving do so quietly and swiftly?