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Release of Hostages

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 12 December 2023

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The hostages who have been released report sexual and physical violence committed against them while in captivity. The Israeli Health Ministry reports that hostages were drugged to make them look happy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Hamas are treating hostages in an inhumane fashion, the international Red Cross should be given the opportunity to visit them all, and we should ensure that they are returned home as soon as possible?

My hon. Friend is quite right about the rights of the international Red Cross. We are involved in intensive diplomatic efforts to secure the release of the hostages. It is continually raised by the Prime Minister, who met families of British people taken hostage by Hamas and of other hostages during his trip to Israel. My hon. Friend may rest assured that while I cannot give a running commentary on these matters, we are doing everything we can to secure their release.

I wholeheartedly support the calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all the remaining hostages held by Hamas and other groups. However, further to the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), I refer him to UN resolution 1860 of 2009, when the UK supported a ceasefire in Gaza and a permanent ceasefire followed a few days later.

The hon. Lady will be well aware of the view of the Government and, indeed, of the Opposition Front Bench, on the possibility of a ceasefire at this time, which we simply do not think exists. On the earlier events that she refers to, the situation then was very different from the one that pertains today.

On the issue of hostage taking, the British-Russian dual national Vladimir Kara-Murza was jailed and poisoned by the Putin regime for criticising the war in Ukraine. He is a de facto hostage of the regime. I have just met his mother, who is in Parliament today. Will the Minister arrange for me to meet the Foreign Secretary with his relatives to hear about the conditions and torture he has been subject to?

I am advised that Ministers have met the family, but I will see what I can do to facilitate a meeting, as my right hon. Friend requests.

Small numbers of hostages have been released in the past as a result of pauses in the response by the Israeli authorities. Will the Minister undertake to ensure that there is wider understanding, both here and internationally, that those pauses are best activated whenever Hamas does not take advantage of them and again embed themselves in hospitals and civilian populations?

The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise the importance of humanitarian pauses, and preferably humanitarian pauses that are several days long. We are doing everything we can to try to ensure that the case for humanitarian pauses, and the ability that would result of getting aid, support and supplies into Gaza, is achieved.