Since I posted my last statement, there have been developments in the conflict in Israel and Gaza, and hundreds more of my constituents have been in touch with me. I apologise, again, to those of you who haven’t yet received a response: I will reply to every email. I also have to prioritise attending debates and briefings about the unfolding tragedy in the region, and ensuring I am fully apprised as to what’s going on.
There is now an urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with suffering on an unimaginable scale. This is partly because of the continued bombardment, with some 6000 Palestinians being killed, including an estimated 2000 children. But is also because people are being denied access to clean water, food, medicines and fuel. According to the UN, a total of 54 trucks carrying aid have entered Gaza since the start of the conflict. This is a tiny number. Before the Hamas attack an average of 500 trucks were entering each day. The people of Gaza need 100 trucks a day as a bare minimum.
There was a lengthy debate on the conflict in the Commons on Monday, which you can read here.
Keir Starmer summed up Labour’s position when he said that “there must now be clear humanitarian corridors for those within Gaza escaping violence. Civilians must not be targeted. And where Palestinians are forced to flee, they must not be permanently displaced. Basic services, including water, electricity and fuel needed for it, cannot be denied.” Establishing a humanitarian corridor is imperative, and needs to be our first priority. It is not enough for the Prime Minister to tell us, as he did today at Prime Minister’s Questions, that the UK has increased its funding to £30m, when the aid simply isn’t getting through. Unless humanitarian aid is got to those who need it, thousands more will die.
At FCDO Oral Questions in Parliament on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to press the Government on this. I asked the International Development Minister what the Government is doing to get fuel trucks into Gaza. Fuel is desperately needed for desalination plants, to ensure clean drinking water, and energy generation plants, that power hospitals. Clean water and healthcare are basic human rights. To block access is a breach of international law. You can read the transcript of that question here.
The Minister assured me that the Government was working on this but didn’t tell me what they were doing. Even less helpful was his answer to my other question in the session. I spoke about the thousands of women giving birth in Gaza ‘in hellish circumstances’ and asked the Minister whether, if bombing a hospital is a war crime – which he had already agreed it was – then shouldn’t the deliberate withholding of fuel needed to keep those hospitals working be considered in the same way? The Minister refused to answer, claiming that I had already asked this question. You can read that transcript here.
I agree with the UN Secretary General, that we need to see a pause in hostilities for humanitarian purposes. Halting the conflict – even if temporarily – would enable the hostages to get safely back to Israel, and aid to get safely into Gaza. Both Hamas and Israel need to agree to this. It would also go a long way towards keeping the prospect of a long-term peaceful solution open, which has to be our ultimate aim. Although that seems like a distant possibility now, I am reminded of what Senator George Mitchell said about the Northern Ireland peace process: we had 700 days of failure, and then one day of success, which was all we needed.
Parliament is soon to prorogue (probably this Thursday), which means we will not be sitting until the King’s Speech on November 7th, which is immensely frustrating. I hope that we will be told more soon as to how MPs can be kept informed and make their views known; I think it’s likely this will be through online briefings with Ministers and others. When I have any more news to share with you, I will update you here.