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Israel’s actions in Gaza are no longer proportionate

(Alamy)

3 min read

I returned from a trip to the West Bank and Israel in May last year profoundly concerned. Palestinians had lost hope about the future and life for them has got progressively worse since my trip in 2016.

We were not allowed into Gaza; we could only see it from a distance as we travelled to Be’er Sheva visiting Palestinian refugee camps where anger and dismay prevailed. However, nothing can excuse the horrific Hamas attack on the festival and kibbutz.

The savagery of those attacks was reminiscent of ISIS and took Israeli security by surprise. 7 October 2023 is very much Israel’s 9/11. 

There is no doubt we need a sustained ceasefire now

No one can blame Israel for retribution, but what is materialising in Gaza goes beyond proportionality and the claims by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that war will continue in 2024 are extremely worrying. Over 22,000 people have already been killed and, as the average age of Gazans is 18, many of those will be children. Another 57,000 have been injured, predominantly with blast injuries and shrapnel wounds, many with limbs which need to be amputated. Hospitals are either closed or filled to breaking point. 

The British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians report that 13 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals still open have an occupancy rate of 206 per cent in inpatients and 250 per cent in intensive care units. Serious malnutrition and disease are rampant. Buildings and infrastructure are often decimated. 

Around 1.9 million of the 2.4 million Gazans are now displaced. The statement by Israel’s national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir that “encouraging the residents of Gaza to emigrate is a solution that we must advance” is worrying. He is not the only Israeli to have said this; the Israeli Ambassador to the UK has said the same. Around six million Palestinians have already been displaced to other countries. One of the main themes we picked up on in May is the worry that this is Israel’s aim. There needs to be clarification on what Israel’s policy is. Is it to disarm Hamas or preside over a clearance of all Palestinians in Gaza and possibly the West Bank too? 

Attacks by Israeli settlers and raids by Israeli Defence Force in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the West Bank are increasing. The permit system limiting how Palestinians can move around makes life hard for them. People from Gaza typically get seven-day permits. We visited a neonatal intensive care unit in Jerusalem where several pre-term babies were left because their mothers had to return to Gaza. That means no breastfeeding or bonding. Other Gazans who stay illegally in the West Bank cannot travel around and find it hard to get jobs. One British aid worker, who had married a Gazan, has not been able to travel with him outside Ramallah or visit his family in Gaza as he is considered an illegal migrant by Israel and will not be allowed back if he returns to Gaza. The increasing population in Gaza is kettled into such a small area without an obvious future and with constant restrictions that it has become a tinderbox. 

So, what is the future? The United States has a fundamental role to play as Israel’s biggest support and supplier of weapons, but this is an election year so its focus is elsewhere and policy could be subject to change. Support for Hamas had been decreasing before October 7 but is now increasing across Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian Authority. There is no doubt we need a sustained ceasefire now alongside peace negotiations for a two-state solution without any further killing on both sides and the hostages released immediately. 

 

Flick Drummond, Conservative MP for Meon Valley and co-founder of Conservative Friends of Palestine

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