Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, yesterday visited the West Bank and Jerusalem as part of his visit to the region.
He met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad in Ramallah to discuss the conflict in Gaza and Southern Israel. The Minister offered his condolences to the Palestinian President for the loss of innocent civilian life, and expressed his concern at the rising numbers of civilian casualties and the particular impact on children.
Mr Burt was briefed by senior United Nations officials on the humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip. The Minister confirmed that the British Department for International Development would be providing £20 million of planned support for the UN Refugees and Works Agency, including £10m which has been brought forward to allow the Agency to maintain the provision of essential services to the refugee population including in Gaza at this critical time.
Mr Burt also made a phone call to Mrs Sahar Dalou in Gaza City. Mrs Dalou’s grandfather and 10 other family members were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Sunday. Mr Burt offered his sympathies and condolences.
Speaking today the Minister said:
“Having seen firsthand the impact of the conflict on Israeli civilians earlier this week, yesterday I heard about how hard this tragedy is hitting Palestinians.
“I shared with President Abbas my deep concern about the rising number of civilian casualties in Gaza, and the importance we attach to ensuring that Israel meets its commitments under international law in this conflict. I heard from Mrs Sahar Dalou directly of the devastating human impact of this conflict on Palestinian civilians: they are innocent victims. Every civilian death in Gaza is tragic and deeply regrettable.
“Yesterday I was briefed by the United Nations on the vital work that they are doing to maintain the flow of basic services to the population of Gaza. I am glad that we have been able to bring forward some of the British Government’s funding to help with this essential contribution. My discussions with the UN made clear the importance of all parties continuing to ensure access for humanitarian supplies in Gaza.
“The violence has to stop as quickly as possible. We continue to call on Hamas to stop its rocket attacks on Israel. We also urge Israel to de-escalate the situation. We need an agreed ceasefire as soon as possible, and we stand strongly behind the Egyptian efforts to achieve this. The people of Gaza deserve a better future.
“During my visit yesterday I also heard about the situation in the West Bank, where I am deeply concerned about the clashes between Palestinian protestors and the IDF. I spoke to Mrs Tamimi, whose brother Rushdi Tamimi died of his wounds after being shot by the IDF in a protest 4 days ago in the village of Nabi Saleh. It is essential that the policing of peaceful protest is done in accordance with international law.
“Only a lasting and comprehensive peace settlement in the region will put an end to the unsustainable situation in both Gaza and the West Bank.”