Gaza Border Violence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:43 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 12:43 pm, 15th May 2018

1 am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

Yesterday’s horrific massacre at the Gaza border left at least 58 dead and almost 3,000 injured. Our first thoughts today are with those Palestinians who are mourning their loved ones or waking up with life-changing injuries. What makes yesterday’s events all the worse is that they came not as the result of some accidental overreaction to one day’s protests but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently calculated and deliberate policy to kill and maim unarmed protestors who posed no threat to the forces on the Gaza border. Many of them were shot in the back, many of them were shot hundreds of metres from the border and many of them were children.

If we are in any doubt about the lethal intent of the Israeli snipers working on the border, we need only look at the wounds suffered by their victims. American hunting websites regularly debate the merits of 7.6 mm bullets versus 5.5 mm bullets. The latter, they say, are effective when wanting to wound multiple internal organs, while the former are preferred by some because they are “designed to mushroom and fragment, to do maximum internal damage to the animal.” It is alleged that this was the ammunition used in Gaza yesterday against men, women and children.

On the very first day of violence, the UN Secretary-General called for an independent investigation into the incidents, and last night the Kuwaiti Government asked the UN Security Council to agree a statement doing the same, only to be vetoed by the United States. Although I agree with every word of that Kuwaiti statement, it is easy to see why the US vetoed it, because the statement was critical of its Jerusalem embassy move.

Will the Minister of State take the initiative, not just in supporting a new Security Council statement but in helping to draft a new statement making no criticism of any party and no link to any other issue, but simply calling for an urgent, independent investigation into the violence in Gaza to assess whether international law has been broken and to hold those responsible to account—a statement to which no country could reasonably object, not even the United States, unless it is prepared to make the case that there is one rule for the Government of Israel and another rule for everyone else

I believe the investigation must be the start of an effort at the UN and elsewhere to bring urgent and concerted international pressure on the Netanyahu Government to lift the illegal blockade of Gaza and to comply with all the UN resolutions ordering them to remove their illegal settlements and end their illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.

If yesterday’s deaths can act as a catalyst for that action, at least they will not have been in vain. In the interim, especially as the protests resume today, will the Minister of State join me in urging the Israeli forces serving on the Gaza border to show some long-overdue responsibility to their fellow human beings and stop this vicious slaughter?