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Gaza and the West Bank

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they will make to the Government of Israel about any violation of international law resulting from the closure of the Gaza crossings and blockage of supplies for reconstruction, and the occupation and settlements in the West Bank. [HL2121]

We press the Israeli Government frequently to lessen the restrictions that they place on Palestinians and to cease settlement building.

Although there is no permanent physical Israeli presence in Gaza, given the significant control that Israel has over Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters, Israel retains obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as an occupying power. The Fourth Geneva Convention is clear than an occupying power must co-operate in allowing the passage and distribution of relief consignments. The UK has consistently reiterated this message on numerous occasions along with our concerns regarding the current humanitarian situation in Gaza.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has raised this with Isaac Herzog, the Israeli Minister responsible for humanitarian access to Gaza. He also reiterated this message at the reconstruction conference in Sharm el-Sheikh on 2 March 2009. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development also urged the Israelis, during his recent visit to Gaza on 1 March 2009, for improved access and to relax tough restrictions on the type of goods that are allowed across the border. This includes supplies of reconstruction material which are urgently needed to help rebuild damaged and destroyed homes, schools, and hospitals.

We continue to be concerned with the ongoing settlement activity, and will consistently urge Israel to freeze all settlement activity. The UK has recently supported an EU statement, issued on 20 February 2009, condemning the plans for a settlement construction in the vicinity of Adam in the West Bank.