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Israel and Gaza

Volume 833: debated on Monday 16 October 2023


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, 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 via the Rafah border crossing, which at present remains closed, 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 first I want 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 and I am sickened that anti-Semitic incidents have increased since the attacks. 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 this 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 is 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 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 to the Jewish people 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 UAE and Bahrain through the Abraham Accords and moved towards normalising ties with Saudi Arabia—steps that not long ago were considered almost unthinkable.

One reason why this attack is so shocking is that it is a fundamental challenge to any idea of coexistence, 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. This must be done in line with international humanitarian law, but also recognising that Israel faces a vicious enemy that embeds itself 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 where 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 does not stand for the future that Palestinians want, and it seeks 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 honourable 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 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 has been trying to kill.

In conclusion, 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.”

My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for repeating today’s Statement and for providing updates on the Government’s actions and the co-operation taking place, as I am aware, with other countries. I share his total condemnation of Hamas’s appalling and ongoing attacks on Israel.

When we heard the initial news just over a week ago, the accounts of unimaginable horror and suffering, and of hostages being taken, were deeply shocking. The senseless murder of men, women, children and babies is hard to comprehend. Those images of 250 young people targeted and killed while celebrating a Jewish holiday at a music festival are impossible to understand. As each day unfolds, every Member of this House will have seen film and photographs showing the suffering and horror, in a way that words can never convey.

In Israel, and now in Gaza, innocent citizens are grieving for their lost and injured loved ones; there is so much pain and suffering. It is imperative that both this House and our Parliament as a whole speak with one voice against such terror and for the dignity of all human life; and that we stand with Israel in solidarity and support of its right to defend itself, to rescue the hostages and to protect its civilians. As long as Hamas has the capability to carry out attacks on Israeli territory, there is no safety. Yet what makes this harder to bear is that that is the very reason for the existence of Israel. As the Lord Privy Seal said, it is more than a homeland; it was there to ensure that what happened in the Holocaust could never happen again. Some in your Lordships’ House will have friends and family who have moved to Israel, permanently or temporarily. For many, it provided a sense of belonging and affirmation of their Jewish identity; they wanted security and peace. Yet Hamas has no interest in peace and is not protecting Palestinians.

Let us be clear—the Lord Privy Seal emphasised this point too: Hamas is not the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people are not Hamas. So, as we support the right, and indeed the duty, of Israel to defend itself and to seek to bring the hostages home, we must also recognise that it is both Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering terribly because of Hamas’s actions. That is where the responsibility for this crisis lies squarely: with Hamas. Terrorism can never be justified; it can never be excused. Hamas is not protecting the security of the people of Gaza as it unleashes terror and then hides behind them. It should release all the hostages.

We welcome the steps taken by this Government to support Israel’s response and the additional aid funding announced today. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said:

“We democracies distinguish ourselves from terrorists by striving for a different standard—even when it’s difficult”—

and it is never more difficult than this.

We also agree with the Government that Israel’s defence must be conducted in accordance with international law. Civilians must not be targeted, and innocent lives must be protected. Humanitarian corridors are required and humanitarian access, including to food and water, electricity and medicines, is needed to save lives. There must be proper protection for those who put themselves in danger to deliver such aid and medical help. Can the Lord Privy Seal provide the most up-to-date information he has on the status of the Rafah crossing in that area?

These attacks are also having a huge impact across the UK. Many of us will have heard desperate accounts from those whose loved ones have been killed or are missing. They are worried for the lives and the future of friends and family in Israel and Palestine. The sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents, and reports of Islamophobic threats and abuse, must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. When I heard that Jewish schools were closing out of fear for the safety of pupils and that Jewish people were hiding their identity in public, I was not only shocked and angry but deeply saddened. Many Jews and Muslims have worked within the wider community to bring people together, to foster understanding and acceptance of our differences and to celebrate both shared and diverse religious views and cultures.

We must support them and share responsibility with them, because we cannot allow our community cohesion to be destroyed. Over the past week, we have seen images and heard personal, direct accounts of the absolute true horror of these attacks, and it has been deeply distressing.

Let us be clear: we condemn the terror of Hamas and reiterate that it does not represent the Palestinian people. Hamas’s brutality only escalates the problems and destroys lives, hope and the pursuit of peace. We continue to support and strive for a two-state solution: a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.

The time ahead will be so difficult and challenging. In absolute defiance of the brutality of Hamas, the UK must stand with Israel, for international law, for international co-operation and for the protection of innocent lives. We remain united in those values.

My Lords, we were all horrified to wake up 10 days ago to see the dreadful scenes of violence in Israel. The scale of Hamas’s terrorist activities has been beyond belief, and we condemn it unequivocally. The abduction and degradation of hostages, including women and children, are particularly appalling. We echo demands for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and abhor the suggestion that they should be used as bargaining chips. We think particularly of those British citizens currently missing, who may be among those being held hostage today.

I have no personal connection with the region, but 50 years ago this month, as a student, I made a visit under the auspices of a UN youth and student association to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. On the day the Yom Kippur War broke out, as a guest of the Israeli Government, I was on a visit to the Golan Heights. I heard and witnessed the start of the Syrian attack in that war. It is therefore a source of profound sadness to me that in the intervening 50 years, so little has been done to deal with the root causes of this conflict.

The impact of the atrocities on families in Israel, but also the wider community abroad, is understandably profound. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in the UK, in Israel and around the world, who now feel fear and grief. We utterly condemn the anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, which have tragically increased in recent days. We welcome the additional support the Government have committed to the Community Security Trust and their assurance that the police will take firm action to deal with hate crime and the glorification of terror.

Israel has, without question, a right in international law to defend its territory and citizens, and we fully support that right, but it is also vital that terrorists are now targeted, not civilians—again, in line with international law. Many innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed in recent days in Gaza, and the whole population now live in fear of attack.

They also face an absence of essential supplies. I believe that water supplies have been reinstated, but the same does not, I think, apply to food and electricity. Do the Government agree with the UN Secretary-General’s comment that the entry of supplies into Gaza must now be facilitated—again, in accordance with international law? It is also vital that the Government make humanitarian aid available with immediate effect, and it is good that extra funds are being made available for this purpose. But when the Government say that £10 million is an increase of a third in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, does the noble Lord accept that this is a third of a figure that has been cut by 90% as a result of the Government’s overall aid cuts, and that a mere £10 million will simply not be nearly enough? Can the Government explain how they intend physically to get the aid to the people who need it?

The Prime Minister said he had spoken to President Sisi about British citizens being able to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing. The crossing remains closed, but the Prime Minister implied that it might soon reopen, at least for foreign nationals. Is that a correct interpretation of the present situation? Looking beyond the current crisis, the people of Israel and Palestine have an equal right to live free from fear, and the UK and its partners in the international community therefore simply cannot allow a return to the status quo ante. We agree with the Prime Minister that if we are to bring violence to an end once and for all, it is for countries such as ours, which has long-standing ties to the region, to take a leading role in bringing about lasting peace based on a two-state solution. It is vital that the Government look to the longer term today, as well as to the immediate, in this most crucial moment.

My Lords, I thank both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their remarks. I express my personal appreciation for the eloquence and passion with which the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition spoke. She spoke, as we from this side seek to speak, on behalf of the whole House and country, and I was moved by much that she said. I am of course equally grateful for the support from the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the Liberal Democrat Benches. Yes, it is sad that 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, we are still in this situation.

Addressing the present, we have to accept that the situation at the present moment is the result, as the noble Baroness opposite said, of one of the most atrocious, despicable and cowardly planned and deliberate terrorist attacks that we have seen in recent memory. Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked about the state of crossings and Rafah. I read the Statement and looked at it again when the noble Lord, Lord Newby, was speaking. The Prime Minister did not give any kind of undertaking. He said that he had specifically raised the issue of the Rafah crossing with President Sisi. The position is as I described it in the Statement: it remains closed currently, but we are working with the Egyptian authorities, we are in contact with them and it is our hope that it may be possible to facilitate approved individuals, including British nationals, to leave Gaza via Rafah—but that is not the position at present. It is the direction in which our diplomatic efforts are directed.

I welcome what both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord said about the Government’s position on humanitarian assistance. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Newby, was mildly churlish about it. In fact, it should be remembered that, between 2016 and 2021, the United Kingdom directly funded almost 10% of the United Nations work in that region.

We are calling for unimpeded humanitarian access so that essential aid can reach civilian populations, and that includes food, water, fuel and medical supplies. I agree with noble Lords that the conflict launched by Hamas has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation. We are providing £27 million in overseas development aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories this year through partners including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. We are also in close contact with the Palestinian Authority, and we urge it to use its influence to condemn Hamas’s brutal actions.

To return to the point made by the noble Baroness opposite, it is Hamas that has been discouraging civilians in Gaza to move towards the relative, certainly not perfect, safety that might be afforded. Hamas has shown no consideration, certainly not for the Israeli civilians it so brutally slaughtered, but nor for the Palestinian people it purports to represent, so I endorse and repeat the noble Baroness’s condemnation of Hamas.

I also welcome and support the comments from the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, condemning the anti-Semitic attacks. It is almost inconceivable, in the light of the events that we have seen, that there are people among us who support and welcome this action and support the perpetrators. People in this House believe that in the United Kingdom, no Jew, no Muslim, no citizen, whoever they may be, of whatever age or walk of life, should ever go in fear, should ever be subjected to hate, should ever be subjected to criticism for who they are. That is the profound resolve of this Government. This Government are not only providing support for the protection of Jewish citizens, as the Prime Minister announced in the Statement, but continuing our programme for safety and security of Muslim places of worship and other places of concern to the Muslim community.

Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, is right that in the long run the two-state solution, as the Prime Minister set out in the Statement, remains the only viable outcome. The United Kingdom will continue to work for it. It will come slower rather than sooner because of this brutal act of terrorism, but it remains the objective of the United Kingdom Government. I repeat my gratitude to noble Lords opposite for what they have said in support not of this Statement but of Israel and the position that the Jewish people find themselves in, and for their humanitarian concern and feeling for the Palestinian people.

My Lords, I have just been talking to the families of some of those who have been taken hostage in Gaza. The NGOs and the United Nations have understandably been vociferous in their concern for the civilian population of Gaza. However, those organisations have been working in Gaza for many years and so must have extensive contacts with Hamas and its leadership. Will His Majesty’s Government urge those organisations to use their contacts with Hamas to persuade it to release the hostages now—the grandmother, the Holocaust survivor, the babes in arms, all 199 of them—in return for which Israel has said it will resume the supplies of food, fuel and water to the people of Gaza?

My Lords, the British Government will bend all their efforts not only to securing the release and safety of British people who are missing but to supporting all those who have been kidnapped, taken and oppressed in the way that my noble friend describes. We are talking to a range of organisations and nations—sovereign states and others—which may have capacity to bring to bear on the Hamas leadership. Whether that will soften the hearts of some of the people who ordered this atrocity I hesitate to forecast. However, I promise my noble friend that the British Government will pursue the action that he refers to.

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement and the eloquent comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble Lord, Lord Newby. This is personal for me. My wife is Israeli. We have a home in Israel. We have friends with family members who were murdered by Hamas nine days ago. The Statement mentioned international law. Do the Government agree that the obligation of Israel to respond in a proportionate manner depends in very large part on the severity of the threat which it faces?

Do the Government further agree that there can be no doubt that the threat is very grave indeed, since Hamas aims not to negotiate a peace treaty or to secure a two-state solution but to destroy Israel? It has the military capacity to send thousands of missiles and we have seen that it has the ability and the willingness, astonishingly, to enter Israel to torture, murder and abduct its citizens simply because they are Jewish. Hamas does not care whether they are supporters of the Netanyahu Government or of a peace settlement. They do not care whether they are religious or secular, whether they are babies or elderly ladies. Do the Government agree that there is no country in the world that would tolerate such a threat on its borders and that therefore a military response is the only available response to the threat posed by Hamas?

Finally, do the Government agree that international law does not prohibit military action which, sadly and regrettably, will lead to civilian deaths, especially when Hamas hides behind the civilian population? Does the Minister agree that the essential difference between Hamas and Israel is that Hamas aims to kill civilians—Jews—while Israel does all that it can to avoid civilian deaths?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. I offer my sympathy and concern to his friends and family.

This is an unprecedented situation. The UK stands side by side with Israel in fighting terror. We agree that Hamas must never again be able to perpetrate atrocities against the Israeli people of the kind that the noble Lord has so eloquently referred to. The UK has a strong track record of supporting international law. That remains our position. We call on our friends and partners to do the same. Israel has stated that it will operate within international law. As the noble Lord said, every country is allowed to defend itself. It is not for the UK to define their approach. Israel suffered an appalling terrorist attack. It has a right to respond and defend itself.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement.

There is no justification for the truly shocking atrocities perpetrated by Hamas nine days ago, a shock exacerbated for many of us by the fact that those attacks took place on the Sabbath. Nor is there any justification for the cancers of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that stalk our own streets. We on these Benches condemn both unequivocally. It is plainly true that no one in this House questions Israel’s right to self-defence or that this right must be exercised judiciously, in accordance with international humanitarian law. I pray that this consensus will hold in the coming weeks, for the sake of the cohesion of communities across Britain—including in South Yorkshire, where I serve.

In view of the unfolding and escalating humanitarian tragedy, and looking to the future, what assurances have the Government sought and been given that the innocent people of Gaza will be able to return to their home neighbourhoods after the immediate conflict?

My Lords, obviously that is the wish that all might have. I thank the right reverend Prelate for his remarks and agree very much on the importance of community cohesion. The reality is that Israel is reacting to the attack, which the right reverend Prelate rightly characterised as an attack on the Sabbath of such horror. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that there is a distinct difference between those who seek to kill babes because they are Jews and a nation that we believe—as the President of Israel has stated—will operate within international law. If Hamas turned away from terror, laid down its arms and dedicated itself to improving the welfare of the Palestinian people, we would not have to wait too long for the outcome that the right reverend Prelate seeks, and we all devoutly wish that that will one day happen.

I am not sure that I can be whipping the House as well. There is time for all Benches to be heard and I think the noble Baroness was possibly up first—but let us get on, because time is going by.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord. My Lords, the cold-blooded murder of Israeli civilians and the taking of hostages was a dreadful crime against humanity. However, the Israeli reprisals in Gaza and their effects on the Palestinian community there are deeply concerning. Does the Minister accept that no crime against humanity justifies another one? Does he agree with the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, who condemned all the parties for their rhetoric and called on all countries to ensure respect for the rules of war? Can the UK Government do more to ensure this and that the actions now being taken are in line with international humanitarian law and give some hope for the two-state solution?

My Lords, what we have seen in recent days has gone a little beyond rhetoric, I fear. I would say to the noble Baroness that of course all countries have a responsibility to seek to abide by international law. When the Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, he emphasised that it was important to take all possible measures to protect ordinary Palestinians and facilitate humanitarian aid. Those things are vital. We have a strong track record of supporting international law and we ask our friends and partners to do the same. Israel has stated that it will operate within international law, but it has a brutal terrorist enemy to deal with.

My Lords, after the barbaric massacre of Jews taken from a Holocaust instruction manual, can the Minister see any peaceful resolution to an attack that started with the supreme evil of murdering young people who were enjoying themselves?

I follow what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was saying, because many years ago I sat down for coffee with a member of Fatah who had spent years in an Israeli jail. I asked what we could offer Hamas: “What do they want?” He replied that it wanted the complete eradication of Israel and the removal of Jews. Will the Minister confirm that he agrees that nothing has changed?

In the last few days, 6,000 rockets have rained down on Israel. Residents old and young of the kibbutzim have been slaughtered and abducted. Israel has decided that containment of Hamas does not work, which means that if possible it must be defeated. Neither Israel nor Egypt wants to occupy Gaza; they just need a clear view of Hamas, the enemy. Does the Minister agree that Israel is not bombing exit routes, as it is in Israel’s interest that the people of southern Gaza leave? It is Hamas that wants the human shield to remain to cover its barbaric terrorism.

My Lords, the noble Lord expressed very eloquently the feelings that the many people who have witnessed these events have. It is important that our hearts go out also to the Palestinian people who have been caught up in this. Israel has our full support in fighting the terror of Hamas, as I think I have made clear. It is extremely important that the window for civilians to relocate remains open for as long as possible and that civilians are allowed to relocate voluntarily and safely. Hamas also must support that objective. We will seek to press that all possible measures are taken to ensure safe humanitarian access and to protect civilians.

As the noble Lord says, Israel has been attempting to minimise civilian casualties by warning residents to leave northern Gaza; that has been complicated by Hamas terrorists telling the local population not to leave and instead, as the noble Lord said, using them as human shields. The situation is immensely bleak. One can see no short-term brightness. If I may, I suggest that we should all resort to prayer.

My Lords, I was in Jerusalem last week. Before I say my few words, I will say that I sat in the other Chamber and watched the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition speak, and then there was a two-hour discussion. It is shameful, when so many Members want to speak, that we are being curtailed. There may be a way of extending this. I also appreciate the Lord Speaker’s arranging of the one minute’s silence.

Actually, there are no words. With the noble Lord, Lord Howard, I too met the family of Ada Sagi, including her son Noam. It is so vital to mention her name. Ada Sagi should have been in London today, celebrating her 75th birthday with her family. She is from Kibbutz Nir Oz and she is being held by those monstrous Hamas terrorists.

All I am going to do is to ask the Leader and other noble Lords to join me in saying a prayer that is said in every synagogue throughout the world when there is a problem like this. In Hebrew it is called “Acheinu Kol Beit Yisrael”:

“As for our brethren, the entire house of Israel who still remain in distress and captivity, whether on sea or on land, may God have compassion on them, bring them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from servitude to redemption, at this moment, speedily, very soon”.


My Lords, I pray for all innocent souls created under God. If it would help the House, I can say that we have had discussions in the usual channels. I am sad that my noble friend said that there had been an attempt to cut off discussion; this is not the case. I hope that we will provide time for a debate on these matters next week; I believe 24 October is the date.

My Lords, I draw the attention of your Lordships’ House to the presence in the Chamber this evening of relatives of some of the hostages. I am sure that the whole House stands with them in total solidarity, praying for the safe return of the hostages and the IDF soldiers who have to go to Gaza to release them and to deal with Hamas. We all say to you, “Am Yisrael Chai”.

The position of the people of Gaza is solely and squarely the responsibility of Hamas. When Israel withdrew in 2005, Gaza had a functioning economy, control over imports and exports, discussions on a seaport and plans for discussions on an airport too. Then Hamas launched a bloody coup, drove out Fatah, executed its rivals and used the Gaza Strip as the basis to launch a campaign for the destruction of Israel. The poor people of Gaza are also the victims of Hamas’s brutal dictatorship, while its leaders amass billions and live in luxury in Doha.

Earlier today, UNRWA accused the terrorist gangsters of stealing humanitarian aid. Will the Government investigate these reports and ensure that any aid that we provide goes to where it is needed?

My Lords, I can add little to what was said in the Statement, but I of course express the fullest solidarity that we—I am sure I speak for all Members of this House—have with members of the families who have been caught up in this dreadful affair. I express that freely.

My Lords, after that fine prayer, I have just one question. While it is clear that the Hamas butchers should be hunted down for their revolting crimes against humanity and made to pay for them, and while we somehow have to get out those hostages who have not been executed in cold blood by Hamas in the meantime, does the Minister agree that minds should begin to turn, for the longer term, to revisiting the two-state process and combining it with the best features of the Oslo accords and the Abraham accords, into which great thought was put? In the future, they are the key to Israel’s sustainability, survivability and the stability of the whole region.

I agree with that. I said in the Statement that the Government’s position is that we should return to seek the two-state solution, and ultimately seek the way of peace. The way of terror is the way of death.

My Lords, terrorism can never be contextualised and unfortunately I know that first hand. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, Hamas is a proscribed organisation and it is an offence to invite support for a proscribed organisation. Can the Leader of the House tell us what actions His Majesty’s Government will take to deal with the enormous amount of people on the streets of the United Kingdom asking for support for this proscribed organisation—including in Belfast, where we had the spectacle of convicted IRA terrorists asking for support for Hamas?

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Hamas is proscribed—those who invite support for this group could be jailed. However, arrests are an operational matter for the police. The Home Secretary has asked police to step up patrols and monitor protests.

My Lords, I mourn the passing of a young relative, only 22, who died in the military just a few days ago. I hope that the Minister will agree with me that the root cause of this is Iran. It is Iran that has funded Hamas and it is its equipment being used. We must stop funding Iran. At this very moment, there are protests outside the BBC, because the BBC has become partisan in not using the word terrorists. Above all, I hope the Minister will dry up the source of funds to Iran.

My Lords, broadcasters are independent in this country, a free country, but as the noble Baroness will know, the Culture Secretary took up certain matters, which she has referred to. So far as Iran is concerned, Hamas is fully responsible for the appalling act of terror that has taken place, but Iran poses an unacceptable threat to Israel, including through its long-term support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. We condemn Iran’s destabilising activity throughout the region and we will look at its activities with wide-open eyes.