UK Government should oppose Gaza ground invasion – Labour

A Palestinian woman runs as she flees Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Sunday, July 20, 2014
A Palestinian woman runs as she flees Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Sunday, July 20, 2014

A deal between Israel and Hamas will inevitably be reached in the end so the Government should oppose a ground invasion of Gaza, the shadow foreign secretary has said.

Douglas Alexander said the variable involved would be the number of children and civilians killed by the fighting before both sides eventually reach an uneasy truce, and urged Tobias Ellwood, the new Middle East minister, to signal a shift in position.

But Mr Ellwood said the Government was working towards a ceasefire and said Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond would fly to the region shortly.

Raising the Gaza crisis at Foreign Office Questions, Mr Alexander said: “Operation Protective Edge has already cost over 580 Palestinian lives, most of them civilians and many of them innocent children.

“Last week I warned an Israeli ground operation in Gaza would bring more suffering for the Palestinians and would be a strategic error for Israel.

“The Opposition is clear we oppose this escalation. Does the Government?”

Mr Ellwood replied: “You are right to remind the House of the heavy death toll being endured there... these are matters being raised in Brussels as we speak and I think the Foreign Secretary (Philip Hammond) intends to put out a statement on his return.”

Mr Alexander said: “That was a troubling answer even for a new colleague welcomed to your position on the front bench. I welcome the fact the US secretary of state John Kerry has travelled to Cairo seeking an urgent ceasefire.

“But the pattern of rocket attacks, periodic invasion and permanent occupation does not bring security for Israel and brings further humiliation and suffering for the Palestinians.

“As in the past, this incursion will end with an agreement. The question is, how many more children and civilians need to die before such an agreement is reached?

“Do you accept the absence of such an agreement will recruit more terrorists at exactly the point Hamas had been weakened by events in Tehran, in Syria and Egypt?”

Mr Ellwood replied: “I think you miss the point - the work that has been going on is in order to try and achieve a ceasefire, which is why the Foreign Secretary, who is in Brussels at the moment, will be flying to the region very shortly.

“We must not also forget Hamas is firing an average of 147 rockets every single day. Were that to stop, then the situation in Gaza would change significantly.”

Meanwhile the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy have condemned what they say is a rise in anti-Semitism in their countries amid protests against the conflict in Gaza.

In a joint statement the ministers said that “anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies”.

While the ministers say they respect freedom of speech, they say they will do everything possible to fight “acts and statements that cross the line to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia”.

Since the outbreak of violence between Israel and Gaza, participants at anti-Israel demonstrations across Germany have frequently used anti-Semitic slogans and also called for Jews to be gassed.

In France, pro-Palestinian youths have clashed repeatedly with police, and on Sunday set fire to cars, pillaged stores and attacked two synagogues in the Paris suburbs.

Jewish groups have expressed shock and disgust about the growing anti-Semitism in Germany and other European countries with strong Muslim communities.