Gaza Border Deaths: Unhrc Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:49 am on 22nd March 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 11:49 am, 22nd March 2019

We have all been in the right hon. Lady’s position; I appreciate the question and am happy to respond.

The Government remain deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza. The violence over the past year has been and continues to be shocking, and the loss of life and large number of injured Palestinians are devastating. Since 30 March 2018, more than 23,000 Palestinians have been injured and 187 killed.

We have been clear that the UK fully supports the need for an independent and transparent investigation into last year’s events in Gaza. Our Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend Boris Johnson, the former Foreign Secretary, made that position clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu last year, and we continue to urge the Israeli authorities to look into the Israel Defense Forces’ contact at the perimeter fence.

We have repeatedly made clear to Israel our long-standing concerns about the manner in which the IDF policed non-violent protests and the border areas, including the use of live ammunition. We call on Israel to adhere to the principles of necessity and proportionality when defending its legitimate security interests. It is totally unacceptable that Hamas and its operatives have been cynically exploiting the protests for their own benefit. Hamas and other terrorist groups must cease all actions that proactively encourage violence or put civilian lives at risk.

We welcome the fact that the Israeli Military Advocate General has recently ordered five criminal investigations that relate to 11 separate instances of Palestinian fatalities during the Gaza border protests. Those investigations are ongoing. Given the importance of accountability, it is vital that the investigations are independent and transparent, that their findings are made public, and that, if wrongdoing is found, those responsible are held to account.

In May 2018, the United Kingdom abstained on the UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for a commission of inquiry on the basis that the substance of a resolution must be impartial and balanced. We could not support an international investigation that refused to call explicitly for an investigation into the action of non-state actors such as Hamas. This morning, the UK abstained on the item 2 accountability resolution at the 2019 Human Rights Council, which included references to the commission of inquiry report. Although the report looks into Israel’s actions, it is highly regrettable that it did not look comprehensively at the actions of non-state actors such as Hamas.

The perpetual cycle of violence does not serve anyone’s interests, and it must end. The impact of the protests has been severe and catastrophic, particularly on Gaza’s healthcare system. I am considering what more the United Kingdom can do to support those in desperate need in Gaza, and I hope to be able to make a further announcement in the coming days.

The situation in Gaza remains unsustainable, set in the context of a stalled middle east peace process that remains, in the view of the UK, vital to pursue and preserve. A long-term strategy for Gaza itself is desperately needed to improve humanitarian and economic conditions and reduce the restrictions that are damaging the living standards of ordinary Palestinians. Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live their lives in peace and security. It is vital that all parties redouble their efforts to move towards renewed negotiations and the shared goals of peace and a two-state solution.