“I am concerned that the UK’s refusal to support a ceasefire is at odds with the need to prevent breaches of international humanitarian law and the effective delivery of humanitarian relief across the whole of Gaza.”Beth Winter MP
By Beth Winter MP
The following letter was sent by Beth Winter MP to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday 4 November, urging him to express, on behalf of UK Government, support for a ceasefire in Gaza.
You can read the full text below.
I am writing to urge you to call for an immediate ceasefire and take steps necessary to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.— Beth Winter MP (@BethWinterMP) November 4, 2023
My letter to the Prime Minister.#Gaza #CeasefireNOW pic.twitter.com/BUL9npQmU2
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to urge you to call for an immediate ceasefire and take steps necessary to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.
It is the ongoing military action and failure to negotiate a ceasefire that is now driving this humanitarian catastrophe.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its latest update reports the Gaza Ministry of Health figures of 9,061 killed and 22,911 injured. By the time you receive this letter, those numbers will certainly be exceeded. The most recent news highlights this with the attacks by Israeli forces on the entrance to Al-Shifa hospital and on the Al-Rashid coastal road killing dozens more innocent Palestinian civilians, including children.
UNOCHA estimates that 1.48million people are displaced in Gaza. UNRWA is providing shelter for 690,000 civilians in 149 shelters, more than four times the shelters capacity. An estimated 160,000 IDPs are housed in 57 UNRWA facilities in the north and in Gaza city but UNRWA does not have accurate information on their condition.
It is right that the Hamas attacks on – and hostage-taking of – Israeli and international civilians of the 7th of October have been condemned. It is right that the Israeli attacks on Palestinian and international civilians in Gaza are condemned.
And the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is being driven by the Israeli government. The Israeli Defence Minister’s statement of 9th October, when he said, ‘I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed,’ made this clear.
There must be a ceasefire to allow the necessary aid into Gaza. But that ceasefire must be used to begin a peaceful and political process to resolve this long-standing conflict.
The demand for a ceasefire is widespread and those withholding support are a minority on the world-stage. It is regrettable that the UK retains a minority view preventing relief.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, called for a humanitarian ceasefire at the Cairo Summit for Peace, on 21st October.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on 26th October, calling for an ‘immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce’ between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza.
Since then, agencies have continued to call for an immediate ceasefire.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire on Monday 30th October. At the UN Security Council, on the same day, there were calls for a ceasefire by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
There is also increasing criticism that actions on both sides are breaches of international humanitarian law that amount to war crimes, both through military attacks on civilian populations and collective punishment of civilian populations.
The UN Secretary General already expressed concern at the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.
Following the Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp on 1st November, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, ‘we have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes’.
On 2nd November, the UN Special Rapporteurs working to support the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, stated that, ‘We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide’ and further, that, ‘Israel’s allies also bear responsibility and must act now to prevent its disastrous course of action.’
Such a grave statement will not have been made lightly.
I am concerned that the UK’s refusal to support a ceasefire is at odds with the need to prevent breaches of international humanitarian law and the effective delivery of humanitarian relief across the whole of Gaza.
The Israeli military encirclement of northern Gaza, with perhaps several hundred thousand civilians present, and the continued Israeli military strikes south of Wadi Gaza, threaten the death of further civilians and prevent the delivery of that aid or repair of civilian infrastructure to deliver water and electricity.
I urge you to work with partners across the region for:
- an immediate ceasefire and political dialogue to ensure ceasefire is permanent from both sides in the conflict;
- the release of hostages by Hamas and of prisoners by Israel and the urgent delivery of adequate humanitarian aid to all parts of Gaza;
- the compliance with international humanitarian law by both sides and international monitoring of that compliance;
- renewed commitment to a peaceful political process to resolve the long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
I look forward to your response.
MP for Cynon Valley
- Beth Winter is the MP for Cynon Valley, you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
- Beth is speaking at Labour and Palestine’s ‘Why Labour should join calls for a ceasefire now’ zoom rally on Wednesday 8th November. You can find out more here.