Israel and Gaza

– in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 23 October 2023.

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Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:38, 23 October 2023

Mr Speaker, last week I visited the middle east, bringing a message of solidarity with the region against terror and against the further spread of conflict. I met with the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to co-ordinate our response to the crisis before us, but also to renew the better vision of the future that Hamas are trying to destroy.

I travelled first to Israel. It is a nation in mourning, but it is also a nation under attack. The violence against Israel did not end on 7 October. Hundreds of rockets are launched at its towns and cities every day, and Hamas still hold around 200 hostages, including British citizens. In Jerusalem, I met some of the relatives, who are suffering unbearable torment. Their pain will stay with me for the rest of my days. I am doing everything in my power, and working with all our partners, to get their loved ones home. In my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog, I told them once again that we stand resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror, and I stressed again the need to act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians. It was a message delivered by a close friend and ally. I say it again: we stand with Israel.

I recognise that the Palestinian people are suffering terribly. Over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in this conflict. They are also the victims of Hamas, who embed themselves in the civilian population. Too many lives have already been lost, and the humanitarian crisis is growing. I went to the region to address these issues directly. In Riyadh, and then Cairo, I met individually with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Saudi Arabia; the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; President Sisi in Egypt; and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. These were further to my meetings with the King of Jordan last week and calls with other leaders, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary’s extensive travel in the region.

There are three abiding messages from all these conversations. First, we must continue working together to get more humanitarian support into Gaza. The whole House will welcome the limited opening of the Rafah crossing. It is important progress and testament to the power of diplomacy, but it is not enough. We need a constant stream of aid pouring in, bringing the water, food, medicine and fuel that is so desperately needed, so we will keep up the diplomatic pressure. We have already committed £10 million of extra support to help civilians in Gaza, and I can announce today that we are going further. We are providing an additional £20 million of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, more than doubling our previous support to the Palestinian people. There are major logistical and political challenges to delivering this aid, which I discussed with President Sisi. My right hon. Friend the Development Minister is leading an effort to ensure the maximum amount of aid is pre-positioned, with UK support ready to deliver. We are also working intensively to ensure that British nationals trapped in Gaza are able to leave through the Rafah crossing when it properly reopens.

Secondly, this is not a time for hyperbole and simplistic solutions. It is a time for quiet and dogged diplomacy that recognises the hard realities on the ground and delivers help now, and we have an important role to play. In all my meetings, people were clear that they value Britain’s engagement. The UK’s voice matters. We have deep ties across the region—ties of defence, trade and investment, but also of history. President Abbas pointed to that history—not the British mandate in Palestine or the Balfour declaration, but the UK’s efforts over decades to support the two-state solution.

Thirdly, growing attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, rising tensions on the west bank, and missiles and drones launched from Yemen show that some are seeking escalation, so we need to invest more deeply in regional stability and in the two-state solution. Last night, I spoke to the leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. We are all determined to prevent escalation. That is why I am deploying RAF and Royal Navy assets, monitoring threats to regional security and supporting humanitarian efforts. Our support for a two-state solution is highly valued across the region, but it cannot just be a clichéd talking point to roll out at times like this. The truth is that, in recent years, energy has moved into other avenues such as the Abraham accords and normalisation talks with Saudi Arabia. We support those steps absolutely and believe that they can bolster wider efforts, but we must never lose sight of how essential the two-state solution is. We will work with our international partners to bring renewed energy and creativity to that effort. It will rely on establishing more effective governance for Palestinian territories in Gaza and the west bank. It will also mean challenging actions that undercut legitimate aspirations for Palestinian statehood.

Mr Speaker, Hamas care more about their paymasters in Iran than the children they hide behind. So let me be clear: there is no scenario where Hamas can be allowed to control Gaza or any part of the Palestinian territories. Hamas is a threat not only to Israel, but to many others across the region. All the leaders I met agree that this is a watershed moment. It is time to set the region on a better path.

I also want to say a word about the tone of the debate. When things are so delicate, we all have a responsibility to take additional care in the language we use, and to operate on the basis of facts alone. The reaction to the horrific explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was a case in point. As I indicated last week, we have taken care to look at all the evidence currently available, and I can now share our assessment with the House. On the basis of the deep knowledge and analysis of our intelligence and weapons experts, the British Government judge that the explosion was likely caused by a missile, or part of one, that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel. The misreporting of that incident had a negative effect in the region, including on a vital US diplomatic effort, and on tensions here at home. We need to learn the lessons and ensure that in future there is no rush to judgment.

We have seen hate on our streets again this weekend. We all stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people—that is the message I brought to President Abbas—but we will never tolerate antisemitism in our country. Calls for jihad on our streets are a threat not only to the Jewish community but to our democratic values, and we expect the police to take all necessary action to tackle extremism head on.

This a moment for great care and caution, but also for moral clarity. Hope and humanity must win out against the scourge of terrorism and aggression. The 7 October attack was driven by hatred, but it was also driven by Hamas’s fear that a new equilibrium might be emerging in the middle east, one that would leave old divisions behind and offer hope of a better, more secure, more prosperous way forward. It is the same motivation that drives Putin’s war in Ukraine—the fear of Ukraine’s emergence as a modern, thriving democracy, and the desire to pull it back into some imperialist fantasy of the past. Putin will fail, and so will Hamas. We must keep alive that vision of a better future, against those who seek to destroy it. Together with our partners, that is what we will do, and I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Leader of HM Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:48, 23 October 2023

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of his statement.

The brutal attack in Israel just over two weeks ago was the darkest day in Jewish history since the holocaust—two weeks of grief for the innocent people who lost brothers, sisters, children; two weeks of torture for the families whose loved ones were taken hostage by Hamas. There was a small glimmer of light this weekend with the release of two American hostages, Natalie and Judith Raanan. I met members of their family last week, and I know that they will be overcome with relief. But Hamas still hold hundreds more—sons, daughters, mums, dads are still missing. They are innocent people who could, if Hamas willed it, be released immediately. But they remain hostage because Hamas want the chaos of war. Hamas want Jews to suffer. Hamas want the Palestinian people to share in the pain, because the Palestinian people are not their cause, and peace is not their aim. The dignity of human life—Jew or Muslim—means absolutely nothing to them. In light of their barbarism, Israel has the right to defend herself. Yes, to get her hostages home, but also to defeat Hamas so that nobody need suffer like this again and so that we might once more see a road to a lasting peace, with a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.

This operation can and must be done within international law. We democracies know that all human life is equal. Innocent lives must be protected. Those are the principles that differentiate us from the terrorists who target Israel. There must now be clear humanitarian corridors within Gaza for those escaping violence. Civilians must not be targeted. Where Palestinians are forced to flee, they must not be permanently displaced from their homes. International law is clear. It also means that basic services, including water, electricity and the fuel needed for it, cannot be denied. Hamas might not care for the safety and security of the Palestinian people, but we do. We cannot and will not close our eyes to their suffering. Gaza is now a humanitarian emergency. There is not enough food. Clean water is running out. Hospitals are going without medicine and electricity. People are starving, reduced to drinking contaminated filth. Babies are lying in incubators that could switch off at any moment.

The deal struck by the United States to get a flow of trucks through the Rafah crossing is an important first step. There were 20 on Saturday and 14 on Sunday, but it is nowhere near enough. Gaza is not a small town facing a few shortages; it has a population the size of Greater Manchester. It is a place where, even before this devastation, life was a struggle. Gaza needs aid, and it needs to be rapid, safe, unhindered and regular.

Countries able to provide support must step up, including the United Kingdom, so I welcome the increased funding for humanitarian aid that the Prime Minister has announced this afternoon. The EU has promised to treble humanitarian aid and the US has appointed a special co-ordinator for international aid to Gaza. I ask whether the Prime Minister can commit to the same, because Britain must stand ready to ensure that aid gets to the right places, to deploy British experts and medical support teams, and to work with international partners to give UN agencies the resources they need for the long term, because there is a long term. Even as we stand by Israel in her fight against Hamas, our eyes must also look to the future: a future where Israeli citizens live free from the fear of terrorist attacks, and a future for the Palestinian people where they and their children enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we take for granted.

For too long, we have talked about a two-state solution and the dignity and justice of a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel, without a serious path or will to make it happen. For too long, we have allowed welcome progress in improving relations between Israel and her neighbours to sit without any progress on the future for Palestine and its people. That must change. We stand with Israel and her right to defend herself against the terrorists of Hamas. We stand for international law, the protection of innocent lives and humanitarian support for the Palestinians. We do so because we stand for a political path to a two-state solution and a better future. These are dark days, but the light must never go out. We must not let it.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his constructive comments and his support. Just to recap, on humanitarian aid, by announcing an additional £20 million today, we will be doubling our aid to the region, where we are already one of the leading contributors of any country in the world. The Development Minister, my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, will remind me, but I think that about 10% of the UN mission in the region is funded by UK contributions. Most of our aid is funnelled through that. It is also worth bearing in mind that President Sisi specifically commended the efforts of the UK alongside the US in ensuring that the Rafah crossing could be open and functioning. That is testament to the work of the Development Minister, the Foreign Secretary and our team on the ground.

In response to the Leader of the Opposition’s question with regard to the UN, the Development Minister is in close contact—on an almost daily basis—with Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN’s humanitarian relief efforts, to ensure that the UK can play a leading role in supporting what is happening on the ground. There are considerable logistical challenges in getting aid to the people who need it, and there are areas where we can make a difference, particularly around el-Arish, the logistical hub that supplies are moving to. I confirm that tomorrow the Development Minister will lay a written ministerial statement setting out further details of the increase in humanitarian aid that we have announced today.

In closing, I concur with what the Leader of the Opposition said. There is absolutely a future available to us that is more prosperous and more stable for people living in the region; one where people can live with dignity, with security and with opportunity. That is the future that Hamas are trying to destroy. We should stand united to stop that happening.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Did my right hon. Friend get any impression from his discussions with Arab leaders that they understood the purpose of Hamas terrorism to derail their efforts to find a better way of living in the middle east? Was he satisfied that they were sufficiently aware of the benefit that Russia hopes to derive from all this and the need to deter Iran from further escalation?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can tell my right hon. Friend from all my conversations across the region with Arab leaders that there is absolutely no love or affection for Hamas. Indeed, it is the opposite, as the Palestinian President said with me when he condemned in no uncertain terms the terrorist atrocities that they have perpetrated. All leaders see Hamas as a destabilising influence in the region and want to work with us and others to prevent the situation from escalating and to limit Hamas’s ability to carry out attacks like this in the future.

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn SNP Westminster Leader

I said last week that history would judge us based on our response not just to the abhorrent terrorist attack in Israel but to the humanitarian crisis that was undoubtedly unfolding in Gaza. In our collective unequivocal condemnation of the abhorrent attacks of 7 October, the House has been and continues to be fully united, just as we are united in our condemnation of any form of antisemitism that rears its head on these isles, and in our thoughts and prayers for all the hostages, who need to be returned safely to their families.

However, in respect of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, while I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement, I believe that we must go further. Here is why. Turning off electricity and water to Gaza is collective punishment. Limiting the free access of food and medicines to Gaza is collective punishment. Preventing people, including British citizens, from fleeing Gaza is collective punishment. Dropping leaflets in northern Gaza telling people to flee or they will be deemed partners of Hamas is a precursor to further collective punishment. All of us in the Chamber know that collective punishment is prohibited by international law. I ask the Prime Minister to use his office to do some good on the humanitarian side of the conflict in Gaza and to answer the question I asked last week. Given the severity of this appalling situation, will he now agree that a ceasefire is required in the region?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I would characterise the situation differently from the hon. Gentleman, with the greatest of respect. Israel has suffered an appalling act of terror. It has the right to defend itself and ensure that something like it does not happen again. He talked about people moving from the north to south of Gaza; it is absolutely right that Israel takes every precaution to avoid harming civilians. In my conversation with the President, he confirmed that Israel intends to act within international humanitarian law, but Hamas are preventing people from moving, keeping them in harm’s way. The hon. Gentleman did not mention that in his question, but he would do well to recognise that that is Hamas’s policy: embedding themselves in civilian populations, using civilians as human shields and preventing them from leaving when they have been given advance notice.

Where I agree, and have been very clear, is that we must do everything we can to support humanitarian efforts in Gaza. I refer the hon. Gentleman to my previous comments. I raised all those issues with the Israeli Prime Minister, and we will continue to do everything we can. Again, I point out that it is not just a function of money but about the logistics of getting very considerable amounts of aid into the region. The UK has capability and expertise that we are very willing to bring to bear, and we are having active discussions about how best to do so.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

Let me start by thanking the Chelmsford Muslim community for hosting a meeting that brought together Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders on Friday. All were deeply shocked by the events of 7 October. There is no place for hate, but there is great concern about the loss of civilian life since then, and the risk of contagion and of the situation escalating even further. I thank our Prime Minister for saying that, in defending itself from terror, Israel also needs to act within international law. How is that being monitored? If there are breaches, how would any perpetrator be held to account?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My right hon. Friend will know that there are established mechanisms for that, but I am reassured by what the Israeli President has said very publicly and in our conversations that Israel intends to act within humanitarian law and is taking every precaution to avoid harming civilians.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

We all condemned the attacks by Hamas on innocent civilians, but since then thousands of innocent Palestinians—including children—have been killed by the Israeli army’s bombardment, which I also condemn. Over a million Palestinians have been displaced, and many more are suffering without access to food, water, electricity, fuel and medicines, which is inhumane and against international law. Will the Prime Minister join me in calling for a ceasefire today, to end this collective punishment?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Again, Israel has the right the defend itself in line with international and humanitarian law, and it has our support in doing that.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Chair, High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill Select Committee (Commons), Chair, High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

How can members of the British Jewish community feel safe when people are allowed to chant on the streets of Britain in favour of jihad, call for the raising of religious armies to go and fight Israel, call for the mobilisation of the intifada, and walk down our street holding signs that display despicable ancient antisemitic tropes? Those are marches not for peace but for hate. They glorify the worst murder of Jews since the holocaust, and they have to stop.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Hateful extremism has no place in our society. Calls for jihad and for Muslim armies to rise up are a threat not only to the Jewish community but to our democratic values. The police are operationally independent, but the Home Secretary has a role in holding police forces to account. As Members will know, she raised this matter with the Met police commissioner at their meeting earlier today. Anyone who commits a crime—whether inciting racial hatred, glorifying terrorism or violating public order—should expect to face the full force of the law.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Leader of the Liberal Democrats

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I agree with him and the Leader of the Opposition that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is truly horrifying. To prevent a catastrophe it is essential that far more aid reaches the people who need it and it is vital that the hostages are unconditionally released. Hamas’s evil attacks have claimed far too many innocent lives already. Israel unquestionably has the right to protect its citizens and target these brutal terrorists in line with international law, just as we all have a duty to prevent more needless civilian deaths. Does the Prime Minister agree with many of us, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the UK should be leading diplomatic efforts to secure a pause in hostilities with a temporary humanitarian ceasefire to allow for the hostages to be released and to get aid into Gaza?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Let me just say exactly what I have been trying to do over the past week: ensure that we can diplomatically engage with partners in the region—as, indeed, the Foreign Secretary has been doing. That has resulted in humanitarian aid coming into Gaza. More needs to come, but that is a sign of progress. In all our conversations, particularly with the Emir of Qatar, we are focused on releasing hostages of all nationalities, but we are particularly concerned about the British hostages. We will continue to have that engagement with our partners to do everything in our power to secure the release of the hostages.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

My right hon. Friend knows that I am one of the Members of this House who takes the most satisfaction in the fact that it is he who is Prime Minister of this great democratic country, with all the powers of analysis that he brings to his role. We are all in this nation accountable before the law—perhaps the only one who is not has to act on my right hon. Friend’s advice anyway, and he is accountable before the law like everyone else. I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, but we do not quite get to the conclusion. This is a watershed moment: we are either going to build a future that is based on a killing field in Gaza, or we are going to have a ceasefire and the opportunity to bring the necessary aid there for all the people who are suffering now so appallingly. My right hon. Friend knows that we must operate within the law. The law is clear and it requires a ceasefire to be implemented now.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

It is difficult to tell Israel to have a ceasefire when it is still facing rocket fire on an almost daily basis and when its citizens are still being held hostage. It has suffered an appalling terrorist attack and has a right to defend itself, but, as I have said, it is important that that is done in accordance with international law and it is important that Israel takes every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians. Based on all my conversations, that is something we will continue to expect and continue to impress on the Israeli Government.

Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Nobody is arguing about whether Israel has a right to defend itself, but my constituents want to know what has already been asked by Members from the Prime Minister’s own side: what happens if international law is not followed? Can the Prime Minister give some assurance to the country, and to people in my constituency, that if Israel breaches international law in its endeavours to defend itself, he will stand at that Dispatch Box and say so?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As the hon. Lady well knows, there are established processes and mechanisms to take account of international law. But again, we cannot lose sight, just a week or two later, of the fact that Hamas—an absolutely evil terrorist organisation—have perpetrated a horrific attack on over 1,000 people in Israel, and Israel has the right to defend itself and ensure that that does not happen again.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I commend my right hon. Friend for his recent attempts in the middle east and for his reminder that the UK, regardless of political party, has been behind the two-state solution from the word go. It is also becoming very clear, as he referenced, that Iran’s hand is behind all the genocidal murdering and kidnapping of Jewish Israeli people. I therefore ask a simple question. If we know all this, and we now know it is abroad in the UK creating useful idiots to go out and promote its propaganda, is it not time that we reviewed again the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with a view to banning its activities, and the role of Iranian banks here in the UK, in the City of London? Why are they still here getting money and putting it towards terrorist activities?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have already taken strong action, such as sanctioning more than 350 Iranian individuals and entities, including the IRGC in its entirety. Furthermore, the National Security Act 2023 implements new measures to protect the British public, including new offences of espionage and foreign interference. As my right hon. Friend knows, we do not comment on specific organisations and whether they are being considered for proscription, but he can rest assured that we discus Iran and how best to contain it with all our allies on a regular basis.

Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Labour, Coventry South

Indiscriminate bombing and obliterating entire neighbourhoods is a war crime. Collective punishment and starving a population of necessities is a war crime. Ordering 1.1 million people to leave their homes and forcibly displacing them is a war crime as well. I absolutely condemn Hamas’s killing of Israeli civilians, and I echo the calls for the release of hostages, but that does not excuse war crimes, and merely saying that international law should be followed when it is clearly not being followed is an insult. Let me ask the Prime Minister this: how many more Palestinians must die before he condemns Israel for violating international law, and calls for an immediate ceasefire?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have made very clear, we support the Palestinian people because they are victims of Hamas too. We mourn the loss of every innocent life; we mourn the loss of civilians of every faith and every nationality who have been killed in this conflict. However, I simply disagree with the hon. Lady’s characterisation of what is going on. There is a significant difference between a terrorist organisation that deliberately and specifically targeted the killing, mutilation and murder of innocent civilians—including children and women and babies—a couple of weeks ago, and Israel’s lawful right to defend itself and go after those perpetrators.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

I thank the Prime Minister for all the efforts that he and his team are making at this time. During the important discussions that he was having with leaders in the region at the end of last week about getting more humanitarian assistance into Gaza—and that is exactly right—was he able to obtain any new information about the welfare of hostages who have been taken by Hamas into Gaza? They include many elderly people, toddlers with medical needs and disabled people. Is it not important for us to make sure that they are not forgotten, and that the supplies going into Gaza reach the hostages as well?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising an excellent point. It is difficult to ascertain that information precisely, but I give him the reassurance that we are talking extensively to our partners. I had a very constructive conversation with the Emir of Qatar about this issue to put pressure on those holding the hostages to release them unconditionally and to ensure their wellbeing in the meantime.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Given that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a fundamentalist organisation that is banned in 40 countries and across most of the Arab world, why are its members allowed to parade on the streets of London and call for the destruction of the state of Israel?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

As I have said, we do of course keep the list of proscribed organisations under review, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription. I refer the hon. Gentleman to my earlier comments: hateful extremism of the type that we saw this weekend has no place in our society, and it should be met with the full force of the law.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis Conservative, Northampton North

A group of 100 journalists from around the world have just been shown some indescribable raw footage of the Hamas attacks in a private screening. According to a BBC journalist, it features a father and two sons aged roughly seven and nine seen running into a shelter in their underwear. A terrorist throws a grenade into the shelter, killing the father and badly injuring the two boys, who run back into the house covered in blood. The two children are screaming for their father, and saying that they are going to die. The terrorist is seen calmly drinking water from the family’s fridge. That is just one of the videos that have been shown to 100 journalists from around the world in the last couple of hours. Will the Prime Minister confirm that any person in the United Kingdom supporting this vicious terrorism will be subject to the full force of the law?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I saw much of the same footage myself on my visit to Israel last week and I can tell the House that it is absolutely horrifying to watch. When we hear in this House about Israel’s actions, it is important to have those images in our mind. What happened to its citizens was unforgivable and it has every right to defend itself against that. I can also provide my right hon. and learned Friend with the reassurance that, as he well knows, under the Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006, the glorification of terrorism, support for proscribed organisations and the encouraging of terrorism are all offences and will be met with the full force of law.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

The Prime Minister said in his statement that this was a moment for moral clarity, and I agree with him. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire at the moment: 34 trucks have gone in, set against a normal backdrop of hundreds going in every day. We are on a precipice, with people including women and children in hospitals dying because of shortages of power, water and food. I welcome the money for aid but, if it cannot get in, it is not helping. What can the Prime Minister do to get that aid in, in the quantities that will prevent avoidable deaths in Gaza?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Last week, President Sisi himself commended the United Kingdom for our diplomatic efforts to ensure the access of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and I thank my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Development Minister for their efforts in that regard. We in this House should be proud of the UK’s efforts to ensure that that access is now open. Of course we need more, and that is why the logistical support that we can provide to ensure that high volumes of aid can flow freely to the people who need it is imperative. The Development Minister is extensively engaged with the UN on that topic.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. My constituency has been the location for two major solidarity with Palestine protests over the past two Saturdays, and I suspect that there will be more to come. The Jewish community in Westminster has highlighted to me that these protests start just a few minutes’ walk from synagogues and that they coincide with the end of Shabbat services. Does the Prime Minister agree that, if further such protests go ahead, the timing and location of their starts should be considered, to take into account that members of the Jewish community are still worried about their safety and that the protests coincide with their Shabbat?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue. There is no place on British streets for demonstrations, convoys or flag-waving that not only glorify terrorism but harass the Jewish community. There is no place for antisemitism on our streets, which is why we have also increased funding for the Community Security Trust to protect British Jews from these types of incidents. The decisions that she refers to are typically operational decisions for the police and local communities, but I will very much bear in mind what she has said in our further engagements with those entities and individuals.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement and for his calmness in the face of the barbarity that the world has witnessed. I also welcome the comments from the Leader of the Opposition and agree with the solidarity that has been expressed—hopefully profoundly—across the House. I want to draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the murder by the terrorists of Kim Damti, a 22-year-old Irish-Israeli woman. I have searched this city long and hard for a book of condolence for her, but unfortunately none is to be found in the Irish embassy or anywhere else, so I want to put her name on record so that she too is immortalised and remembered forever.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I know that Kim’s family will be grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said, and I know that the whole House’s thoughts will be with them at this unspeakably difficult time.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

Hamas has not just abducted civilians but refused to release proof of life or lists, which is clearly adding even more to the distress. Will my right hon. Friend outline the steps he is taking to ensure that the Red Cross does everything possible to extract that information from this terror group?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

One of the things we have been discussing with our regional partners, including the Qataris, is how best to ensure humanitarian access to those hostages and to get better information on their wellbeing. That is something we will continue to press on.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Independent, Islington North

The killings on 7 October were appalling and have to be totally condemned, as everyone has today. However, the loss of 5,000 Palestinian lives in Gaza is continuing and getting worse. The question is: why did the Prime Minister instruct Britain’s representative to the UN not to support the call for a very minimal thing, which is a humanitarian pause to allow aid to go in and a ceasefire to take place, to start to bring about a process of peace? Ultimately, that is the only way forward. Ultimately, the only way forward is the end of the occupation. Ultimately, the only way forward is recognition of the rights of the people of Palestine.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Our regional and diplomatic engagement has focused extensively on how we can bring about a better and brighter future for the people of Palestine and the Palestinians, but I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman has made no reference to the fact that an organisation he once described as a friend has perpetrated an absolutely appalling act of terrorism against more than 1,000 people.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Earlier this afternoon, the all-party parliamentary group for Israel, which I co-chair, heard from victims, the families of victims and the families of hostages held in Gaza. Their one ask, above all else, is of course for hostages to be returned home, safe and sound, but there are babies aged nine months and many elderly people who are totally dependent on medicines that they were not carrying when they were taken hostage. The Prime Minister has already mentioned the role of the International Red Cross. Could he update the House on what is happening to enable the International Red Cross to gain access to the hostages and to supply them with the medicines they need to keep them alive?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can tell my hon. Friend that is exactly what we are trying to do. We are also working with the Egyptian Red Crescent, which is engaged on the ground. Our priority is to provide food, water, medicines and fuel to those who need them. We will continue our extensive dialogue with partners to increase both the speed and the duration of aid, and to help to get aid to the people who need it.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I think we can all agree that there is no place on our streets for hateful extremism, so what does the Prime Minister have to say to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who said that, at the moment, law enforcement do not have the powers they need to combat hateful extremism?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The Home Secretary met the police chiefs this morning and, of course, we continue in dialogue with them. Where there are gaps in the law, we are happy to address and look at them, but we believe that at the moment the police do have the powers to arrest those who incite violence or racial hatred. There is no place on our streets for that type of behaviour, and we will work extensively to clarify the guidance to officers on the ground so they are fully aware of the powers and tools available to them to make sure these people feel the force of the law.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

I thank the Prime Minister for his dignified strength and leadership in these challenging times. Indeed, I also thank the Foreign Secretary for his leadership.

There is a time for peace and a time for war. Of course, this is a time of war for Israel. Does the Prime Minister agree that, post conflict, we cannot go back to the status quo and that there will need to be a comprehensive peace settlement for the region as a whole, involving many actors in the region, perhaps including some people we may not want to talk to today? Although Britain and the United States will be at the vanguard of that, it has to be a regional solution and a long-lasting solution, and the people of Gaza should never, ever be represented by an organisation that wants to kill rather than save lives.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent contribution. He is absolutely right. The Foreign Secretary and I are having those conversations with people across the region as we speak. We cannot go back to the status quo ante; that is not right and it is unacceptable. That means we have to work positively and with energy on a better future for the people of Gaza especially. That is a huge priority for us in the coming days and weeks.

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Shadow Minister (Investment and Small Business)

Fourteen hundred Israelis have been killed by Hamas attacks, which I utterly condemn. Over 4,700 Palestinians have been killed by the airstrikes and, according to Save the Children, a child is dying every 15 minutes inside Gaza. Last week, I asked the Prime Minister what steps were being taken to de-escalate the conflict so that it does not engulf the wider region. This is happening. Can he say more about what he is doing to support any other UN resolutions that may help to de-escalate the conflict and create the humanitarian space that is desperately needed to help civilians and bring some kind of end to this conflict?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The biggest risk on escalation comes from Iran and its destabilising behaviour. We have seen worrying rocket attacks from the Houthis over the past few days, but also increasing rocket fire from Hezbollah. It is important that those are restrained. Our engagement, particularly with Arab leaders, has focused on them putting pressure on those who have influence in the region to de-escalate those tensions. We have also sent Navy assets to the region to help, and to make sure that arms shipments are not getting to those nefarious actors.

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

Events in Israel and Gaza have a direct influence upon my constituents. In May 2021, a convoy for Palestine drove through north London with loudspeakers advocating that people raped Jewish girls and mothers. On Saturday, as the Prime Minister said, “jihad” was called for on the streets of London, and a London underground driver said the same over the tannoy. Only yesterday, a long-term resident of my constituency has been identified as a Hamas operative. Indeed, two further names have been drawn to my attention. The Prime Minister says that action will be taken, but it simply is not. My constituents do not expect the law to be enforced; they demand it.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

May I thank my hon. Friend for everything he does to champion particularly his Jewish constituents and the community more broadly? I can let him know that, at this point, I am aware of over 38 arrests that have been made by the police over the past week or two on this particular issue.

On the other issue that my hon. Friend mentioned, the British Transport police are actively working with Transport for London to look into it. Of course, that is an operational matter for the police, but the Government are clear that everyone should have the right to travel safely and without intimidation. I would also hope that the Mayor of London and others responsible for transport will take steps to make sure that that is the case.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Chief Whip

In their joint policy statement, the Prime Minister, President Biden and other leaders said that they have

“committed to continue coordinating with partners in the region to ensure sustained and safe access to food, water, medical care, and other assistance required to meet humanitarian needs.”

Fuel is not mentioned specifically. However, in his statement today—at page 4, line 7, in the advance copy—the Prime Minister does mention fuel. Is securing the delivery of fuel a UK policy aim only, or is it the joint position of all the leaders?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The UK is working hard to ensure that humanitarian aid gets to the people who need it, and fuel is one of the things that we are working on.

Photo of Mark Logan Mark Logan Conservative, Bolton North East

I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement today of an extra £20 million in humanitarian aid. Last week, I met a group of senior leaders from my mosques in Bolton. At the very end, a note was passed to me that said, “Can we stop just having words on the two-state solution and actually have some action?” I welcome what the Prime Minister has said, and I recognise that we are in the acute moments of the conflict right now, but—looking to the future—what ideas, international collaboration and leadership will we put in to bring about a two-state solution? Where there is a vacuum, others will fill it.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend is right that we need to redouble our efforts and inject fresh energy into demonstrating progress towards that better future. The most immediate thing we can do is ensure that there is a future in Gaza after Hamas that provides Palestinians with the opportunity to live with dignity and security. That is something that we are actively engaged on with our international counterparts.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

Prime Minister, you state in your statement that you stand with the people of Palestine and recognise their suffering, but according to NGOs on the ground in Gaza, 100 children are dying every day due to Israeli aerial bombardment. Military solutions are not going to end this conflict. Only an immediate ceasefire will, so are you going to call for an immediate ceasefire—yes or no?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

This House stands united in saying that Israel has a right to defend itself. Then it should stand united with Israel’s right to defend itself in line with international humanitarian law.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

After the appalling protests this weekend, will the Prime Minister endorse the October declaration, which so many Members of this House and the other place have signed, and encourage all people across this country to stand up for British Jews? I welcome the decision to double the aid in this situation, but will he reassure the House that not a single penny of it will fall into the hands of Hamas?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

My hon. Friend obviously speaks with experience on this issue. I assure him that the Development Minister is very seized of that particular question. Historically, the vast bulk of our aid has been both humanitarian and channelled through the UN, but we will of course make sure that it gets to the people who need it and is not syphoned off or hijacked by Hamas.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

I hope the Prime Minister is right in his belief that these recent traumas could give fresh impetus to a process towards a two-state solution because, frankly, to many of us that seems further away than it has for decades. In that context, what is his understanding of the Israeli Government’s medium and long-term strategy, in the event of their ground operation in Gaza going ahead?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The Israeli Government are obviously best placed to speak for themselves, but they have a right to defend themselves. They have said very clearly that they want to protect their citizens. I think they do not just have a right to do that; they have a duty to do that, to ensure that attacks like this cannot happen ever again.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Constituents of mine have been in touch to express how appalled they are at a report in The Times about how an individual with known links to Hamas was not only given UK citizenship, but given a council house and allowed to buy it at a discount. Will the Prime Minister investigate this case to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The House and my right hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on any individual case, but the Metropolitan police have set out that they will always take appropriate action when provided with information about alleged activity that may be linked to terrorism perpetrated either abroad or here in the UK.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

We stand on the edge of the land invasion of Gaza, which will put at risk both Palestinian lives and the hostages’ lives. What estimate has the Prime Minister made of the potential number of civilian casualties there will be if the land invasion goes ahead?

On a constituency matter, four weeks ago the Muslim women’s centre in my constituency suffered an arson attack, which was particularly distressing because the Holy Koran was burnt in the room that was targeted. What assistance will be provided to the Muslim centres that have been under attack in that way?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I can say to the right hon. Gentleman that we will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in any form and will seek to stamp it out wherever it occurs. In June, the Security Minister confirmed that additional funding of around £24.5 million would be available to provide protective security at mosques and Muslim faith schools, and the deadline for the protective security scheme has been extended to cover more applications.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his unstinting work in the region to bring about a positive influence. The release of two hostages on Friday evening offered the smallest of hopes to many, many people for further releases as time goes on. In his statement on Friday, he specifically referred to Qatar and Israel. Will he say a little more about the negotiations and the influence he is bringing to bear, and the hope that we will see further hostages released as a result?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Qatar is an important ally to the UK. We have a wide-ranging bilateral relationship, and because of that it is helpful to discuss with the Emir of Qatar their efforts—they are taking a lead on this—to secure the release of hostages. I welcome and commend Qatar’s leadership in helping to secure the release of the first two hostages, but I know that the Emir and Qatar are focused on securing further releases, and we will continue to work closely with them.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

I was disappointed that nowhere in this statement did the word “ceasefire” appear. Of course, we absolutely and unreservedly condemn Hamas embedding themselves within the civilian population, but that surely is a compelling reason for a ceasefire, because only by ending the killings can progress towards a political solution take place. So why, even at this late stage, will the Prime Minister not join the growing number of voices calling for an immediate ceasefire, before this catastrophic conflict engulfs the entire region?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I refer the hon. Gentleman to what I said previously. Israel has the right to defend itself. It is facing an appalling terrorist organisation, which has committed appalling acts, and it has the right to ensure that those acts stop and do not hurt its citizens again.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

I very much welcome the Prime Minister’s work and leadership in engaging with the Arab world to try to find a solution to the difficult and challenging situation that we face in the middle east. This is not the first time that the terrorist organisation, Hamas, have carried out terrorist activity and killed innocent Jewish people to derail the peace process. They did that in 2002, when they killed innocent Jewish people on the night of Passover, just before the Arab peace initiative was about to be launched. That then derailed the peace initiative for the region. I ask the Prime Minister this: from his meetings with Arab leaders, can he tell us whether they are still committed to the Arab peace initiative on the 1967 borders? If that is the case, and given that we were previously committed to it, are we? Moreover, will he host an international summit on a two-state solution as President Clinton did at Camp David in 2000?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

One thing we must do collectively is re-energise progress towards a two-state solution. That has been the long-standing position of the UK and it remains so. In all the diplomatic engagements of both myself and the Foreign Secretary over the past few days, we have emphasised that with our Arab partners in particular and discussed how we might demonstrate visible progress towards that goal.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. This session must end at 5 o’clock. Patently, I am afraid, not all Members will be called. We will do the best that we can, but it would help colleagues if questions were short.

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

With reports that 50 dual citizens who are hostages may be released this evening, Walthamstow is grateful to the Prime Minister for all that he has done, and for the commitment that he has made to one family to help get their kidnapped family members released. May I ask him about his commitment to other Walthamstow residents—some of the 200 UK nationals—who are stuck in Gaza? Rania and her children are terrified and confused, because they have been to the border several times following Foreign Office advice, only to find that it is closed. Can the Prime Minister update us on whether any UK nationals have yet been rescued and whether there could be a single point of contact at the border for these families if they do make such a perilous journey?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I say to the hon. Lady that I know that it will be a frightening time for British nationals in Gaza and for their families. We continue to provide assistance to them, and they are in contact with the Foreign Office. We have not been able to secure the movement of any British nationals the other way across the Rafah crossing, but we have had discussions with the Egyptians, including the one that I had with President Sisi, to ensure that when the possibility is there, those people can cross. Indeed, we have pre-positioned rapid deployment teams from Border Force in Egypt, close to the border, to make sure that, logistically, we can collect those people and get them home as safely as possible when that happens.

Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud

The new army of online middle east experts, the unverified bots from nefarious sources and the rise of sophisticated artificial intelligence risk seriously undermining the work that the UK and the international community are doing to de-escalate the conflict. Everybody sharing divisive and abusive messages—including, sadly, people in this place—needs to understand that they are serving only to raise the heat on the families of the people with loved ones in Israel and Gaza. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the UK and Governments around the world are working to put pressure on the tech companies to tighten up their controls and ensure that we have prosecutions here where necessary to provide the deterrence that we need?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I reassure my hon. Friend, who raises an excellent point, that online offending is as serious as offline offending and that we have robust legislation in place to deal with threatening or abusive behaviour, or behaviour that is intended or likely to stir up hatred. That applies whether it takes place offline or online, and we have worked with the police to fund an online hate crime reporting portal and to ensure that they have all the tools they need to bring those who break the law to justice.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Exports)

The scale of violence that we have seen in Palestine and Israel over the past few weeks has been horrific and the deaths of innocent people on both sides is a tragedy. The Prime Minister is right that the violence did not end on 7 October, but it did not start then either. Recent wars broke out in the region in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2021. What is the Prime Minister doing not only to address the immediate violence, but to bring about a long-lasting peace in the region?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We are working hard to make sure that we can provide the people of Palestine with a better future, because they have legitimate aspirations to live with measures of security and freedom, justice, opportunity and dignity. We will strive to build that future for them in all our dialogue with regional partners.

Photo of Nicola Richards Nicola Richards Conservative, West Bromwich East

On Saturday, Hen Mazzig tweeted that a pro-Palestinian protestor carrying a black flag was “too similar to ISIS”. The Met police disagreed, retweeted him, and publicly said that it was not true. That caused a barrage of antisemitic and homophobic abuse on a scale that he had never seen. I spoke to Hen, and he said that after seeing the most horrific massacre of Jews since the holocaust he thought that he was safe in London, and that British people always made him feel welcome, but now he is worried to leave his home. Does the Prime Minister agree that that example is disgraceful? The Met has a responsibility to protect Jewish communities at this most difficult time, and should be held to account for allowing that barrage of antisemitic abuse towards a member of the Jewish community.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank my hon. Friend for all that she does to champion the Jewish community. I met most recently with Ministers, police chiefs and the Community Security Trust in Downing Street to discuss how we can better protect the British Jewish community at this difficult time, as well as additional funding. I have been clear that there is zero tolerance in our country for antisemitism. What we have seen recently is unacceptable and it should be met with the full force of the law.

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Committee, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment, Chair, Business and Trade Sub-Committee on National Security and Investment

Hamas’s crime was not just what was once called “the banality of evil”; it was the calculation of evil, which is why Hamas must be defeated. The Prime Minister is right that a humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Gaza. That is why he is right to say that we need a constant stream of aid pouring in. The UN Secretary-General is very clear that only a binding-on-all-sides negotiated cessation of hostilities will allow that aid to pour in as the Prime Minister said. Is the UN Secretary-General wrong, and if he is not what will the Prime Minister do at the United Nations to bring about that binding-on-all-sides negotiated ceasefire so that aid can flow and lives can be saved?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Aid is already flowing into Gaza as a result of the diplomatic efforts of many, including the UK, and now we are providing further not just financial but logistical support to increase the supply of that aid. We will continue to do so. It is vital that we get it in, and we are working very closely, as I said, with the head of the UN’s humanitarian agency, who is in constant contact with the Development Minister.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

Two weeks ago, Hamas committed an unprecedented and heinous pogrom against Jewish people—men, women, babies and children. We all stand with our British Jewish community, so Rotherham Council town hall flew the Israeli flag in solidarity. However, within hours it was attacked, the flag torn down and the flagpole broken. Rotherham Council is refusing to re-fly the Israeli flag. Does the Prime Minister agree that we must stand up against those who wish to intimidate our Jewish community, and re-fly the flag to show that we will always stand up against antisemitism and stand with our Jewish community?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We have zero tolerance in the UK for antisemitism, and I thank my hon. Friend for everything that he is doing to champion his Jewish constituents at this difficult time. I am clear that where people incite racial or religious hatred or their conduct is threatening, abusive or disorderly, or causes distress to others, the police can and should take action, and those who commit those crimes should face the full force of the law.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister talk of the need to get fuel into Gaza, but as Hywel Williams said, that was not referenced in yesterday’s joint statement, even though fuel is due to run out in the next few days and without it there will be no water, no functioning hospitals, no bakeries and so on. Can I press the Prime Minister on a question that he has not been prepared to answer so far: does he consider the withholding of fuel to be in line with the Government of Israel’s obligations to act within international law?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The Government of Israel will manage their behaviour in line with international law. Our job is to ensure that we get aid into the region, and that is what we are focused on doing.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

During his visit to regional partners in the middle east last week, did the Prime Minister get any sense of the extent to which any necessary Israeli action in Gaza can and will be contained from wider involvement by malign actors?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

It is important that this conflict does not escalate. That is why our Navy presence to stop illegal arms shipments to entities such as Hezbollah is important, as is the diplomatic engagement that we have had with leaders across the region to ensure that those who would seek to exploit this already awful situation for their own further ends are stopped, and that they hear that message in no uncertain terms from everybody.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Opposition Whip (Commons)

This weekend I went to Whitefield shul and attended a vigil in Manchester for the hostages. The community is scared at what we are seeing on the streets. Since Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israel over two weeks ago, the Community Security Trust has reported a more than 700% rise in antisemitic hate incidents, and Tell MAMA has reported a more than 500% rise in Islamophobia over the same period. Does the Prime Minister agree that there is no place in Britain for antisemitism or Islamophobia, and that those who proliferate this hatred and poison on British streets will be met with the full force of the law?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I have been clear that there is zero tolerance for antisemitism or indeed anti-Muslim hatred in any form. We will seek to stamp it out wherever we see it.

Photo of David Simmonds David Simmonds Conservative, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner

A great many constituents whose families found refuge here in the UK from the holocaust in Europe have reached out to me in the last few weeks to tell me about how they have been personally and directly affected by the ongoing attacks from Hamas in Israel. They would like me to commend my right hon. Friend for the work that he has been doing with our allies to bring peace and stability, and they pose this question: what further efforts can be made to ensure that, once the current threat from Hamas is addressed through Israel’s actions, the evidence is gathered and the perpetrators are identified so that the due process of international law can bring them to justice?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

It is important that people act in accordance with international law, that those procedures are followed and, indeed, that Israel takes every precaution to avoid harming civilians. In the meantime, we will ensure that we get humanitarian support into the region. Those efforts are starting to bear fruit, but we must double our efforts.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

The horrific death toll of this crisis now includes 1,800 Palestinian children. More children will die while the bombs are dropping. The aid needed will not get through. The United Nations Secretary-General is calling for a ceasefire; so is the EU foreign policy chief and so are France, Spain, Japan and Brazil. We need more than just expressions of regret about the loss of civilian lives; we need action to stop it. Is it not time to back a ceasefire, binding on all sides?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I think that is a mischaracterisation of some of what some of those countries have said. I spoke to the President of France last night and also leaders from the US, Canada, Italy and Germany. We are united in supporting Israel’s right to self-defence, acting in accordance with international law, and committed to getting humanitarian aid into the region, as we are now doing.

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon Conservative, Orpington

I pay tribute to the statesmanlike actions of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on this terrible issue. At the weekend, shocking footage travelled the world showing flags of proscribed organisations on the streets of London, with extremists proclaiming Allah’s curse on the Jews and others calling for jihad. British Jews are increasingly feeling unsafe in their own country. But what has made that worse is the apparent refusal of the Metropolitan police to do anything about it, other than stand to one side and then issue a self-justificatory tweet that, frankly, was an insult to the intelligence of anybody who read it. What steps has my right hon. Friend taken to ensure that the leadership of the police will in future enforce a zero-tolerance policy for incitement and extremism on our streets, for the good of all our people?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Hateful extremism has no place in our society. Calls for jihad and Muslim armies to rise up are a threat not only to the Jewish community but to our democratic values. Of course, the police are operationally independent, but the Home Secretary has raised this with them. Anyone who commits a crime—whether it be inciting racial hatred, glorifying terrorism or violating public order—should expect to face the full force of the law.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment in his statement to challenging actions that undermine the prospects for Palestinian statehood. What is his assessment of the impact of continued illegal settlement building in the Palestinian territories on the prospects for Palestinian statehood?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Our position on illegal settlements is of long standing and is in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution, which I know the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar with.

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

May I start by sincerely thanking Members who have shown me support over the last week? It has been really meaningful.

There is a narrative developing that I think we need to challenge. Someone can stand for Israel and still care about what is happening in Gaza. Someone can stand for Palestine and not support Hamas or the atrocities that they have committed. Both can be true. It is an incredibly sensitive time both in our communities and, as the Prime Minister will know, diplomatically. Will he look again at the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, which is coming to the House on Wednesday and relates to this specific conflict? Whatever one may think of the content of the Bill, I hope that he agrees that now is not the time.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The Bill to which the hon. Lady refers delivers a manifesto commitment to ban public bodies from imposing their own boycott, divestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries. Those could be divisive policies that undermine community cohesion. It is important that the UK has a consistent foreign policy and speaks with one voice internationally.

Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Perry Barr

I have—not just now but for a very long time, since 2007—condemned Hamas for their action, which has always led to Palestinian bloodshed in Gaza, and I will continue to do so. I condemn, of course, the action against the Israelis on 7 October—the slaughter of men, women and children. However, I also want to look at the issues in Gaza. I want support for the people whom Hamas use as shields, and I want their rights protected. I want aid and support for them, because they have just as much of a right to life as anyone else. I ask for a ceasefire in the interim to allow people to get the right amount of aid and to feel safe in their territory.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that Hamas are using innocent Palestinian people as human shields, with tragic consequences. We mourn the loss of every innocent life, of civilians of every faith and nationality who have been killed. We support the Palestinian people because they are victims of Hamas, too. That is why we are so focused on getting aid into Gaza. As he can see, those efforts are starting to bear fruit. Of course, there is far more that we need to do, but he has my assurance that we are working around the clock to bring that aid to the people who need it.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Independent, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

The Prime Minister said earlier that aid is flowing into Gaza. May I draw his attention to the fact that every single non-governmental organisation is saying that the aid is only of a token amount? What is he doing to ensure that aid goes to Gaza in the quantities that are needed?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I just gently point out to the right hon. Lady that aid is going in, but I have also said that it is not enough and there needs to be more. We are working incredibly hard to ensure that happens. That is a function of the financial support that we are providing, more than doubling our financial support to the region, as well as the logistical support, which is why the conversations that the Development Minister is having with the head of the UN’s humanitarian agency are so important. The logistical effort required to bring about high volumes of aid is considerable. The UK has specific expertise, capabilities and equipment that may be able to help with that, particularly at el-Arish airport, and we will work very hard not just to increase the supply of aid into Egypt, but to ensure that it can get to the people who need it across the crossing.

Photo of Andrew Western Andrew Western Opposition Whip (Commons)

We must all recognise the responsibility of global leaders to ensure the protection of innocent Palestinian civilians. To that end, may I ask the Prime Minister what steps he is taking to be certain that independent observers are able to monitor fully the ongoing situation in Gaza, to ensure that there is no collective punishment of the innocent and that international law is upheld at all times?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Our overriding priority is to ensure that aid gets to those who need it, which is why we are not just increasing our financial contributions to the region, but intensifying our diplomatic efforts with all parties to allow for safe access to aid for those people, and to make sure, as I said, that the logistical efforts are put in place to ensure that aid can actually be delivered once it finds its way to Egypt. None of those things is easy, but we are making progress on all three, and we continue to be committed to all of those things. I am confident that things can keep getting better over time, in terms of both volume and scale.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Clearly, Israel is not going to have a ceasefire while it is still under attack, and it has every right to defend its citizens. However, the deaths in Palestine are increasing, and international concern about that is growing. Too few aid lorries are getting into the country, hostages are being held in Gaza, and we also need to ensure that we stop the deaths of innocent people in Gaza. Is the use of safe zones or humanitarian zones part of a solution that would allow the aid to get in and the hostages to be got out, and would save more lives?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. When it comes to the release of hostages, those conversations are happening—as he can imagine—and we are diplomatically involved in applying as much pressure as we can for the unconditional and safe release of hostages. We saw welcome progress with the first two hostages released, but there is clearly more to do.

With regard to aid, again, we are having those conversations about ensuring that aid can get across the Rafah crossing safely to those people who need it. That is why diplomatic engagement with all sides is important, and we will continue our efforts with the US and other allies in the region to make sure that happens.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration)

Has the Prime Minister considered calling on Israel to allow patients in a critical condition in Gaza to be medically evacuated for urgent care?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

At this point, there are no people leaving Gaza the other way across the Rafah crossing. That includes the people whom the hon. Gentleman points to, but also British nationals. We continue to press for that, and will continue our diplomatic activity to ensure that those who need to come across can do so. As I said, we have pre-positioned Border Force operatives in Egypt, with the logistical support to ensure that once British nationals do get across the Rafah crossing into Egypt, we are able to collect them and bring them home safely. However, there is still dialogue to be had to make sure that can happen.

Photo of Sam Tarry Sam Tarry Labour, Ilford South

The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has now called for a humanitarian ceasefire, alongside Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach; Humza Yousaf, the Scottish First Minister; the UN Secretary-General; and the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs. Will the Prime Minister urgently consider a humanitarian ceasefire on the basis of not just aid, but giving our diplomatic efforts the chance to free those hostages?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

Those hostages should be freed unconditionally—they should never have been taken in the first place. We will continue our diplomatic efforts to ensure not just their wellbeing but their safe release. That is why our conversations with the Qataris, among others, are so important, and evidence that that diplomacy is paying off has been demonstrated in the past few days. However, there is clearly considerable work to do, given how many more hostages are being held against their will. These people were kidnapped from Israel. They are innocent people. They should not be there, and they should be unconditionally released.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I received an email from a constituent the day after the horrific terrorist attack in Israel. She was worried about the safety of her brother and his friend, who are also both Vauxhall constituents. Working with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, they thankfully made it to the border with Jordan, and are now back home. However, I recognise that this is not the case for so many people. So many people are still worried for their loved ones. The killing of innocent people at a music festival should shock us all, and the kidnapping of innocent children should be condemned. Every night that I put my six-year-old and eight-year-old to bed, I think of those innocent children, kidnapped without their parents. We should all call this out.

Israel has the right to defend itself, and how Israel does so matters. The Prime Minister has touched on the humanitarian work that he has been doing, which I welcome. However, having listened to Members this afternoon, and given the volume of emails I have received from Vauxhall constituents, does he agree that a temporary humanitarian corridor will help get that urgent aid through to Gaza?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party

We are working on efforts to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza. The crossing is now open, aid is being pre-positioned to el-Arish and neighbouring areas, and we are intensifying our conversations on logistical support as well as further financial support. I am pleased that the hon. Lady’s constituent’s family were able to exit—I assume via the west bank. Just for Members’ information, we are also working on that side of the conflict to ensure we can support those British nationals who have registered with the Foreign Office in their safe departure from the west bank, should they so choose. Border Force teams and others are engaged on that side of the conflict as well.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I apologise to the House, but we are out of time. For those watching, I would like to place on record the fact that a significant number of Members have not been able to be called, but the fact that that is so does not mean they are not interested. I thank them all very much for their patience.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

It is, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Earlier this afternoon Dr Offord mentioned some of the horrific chanting this weekend. He also mentioned that a London Underground tube driver had said the word “jihad”. To ensure clarity—at this really sensitive time, our words matter—should the hon. Member not come and correct what he has said, because it has been stated that the London Underground staff member actually said “Free Palestine”, not “jihad”?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

The hon. Lady is well aware that all hon. Members are responsible for their own words in this place. If the hon. Gentleman feels that he has something that he wishes to amend, he will do so, but that is not a matter for the Chair.