Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Israel and Gaza.
The terrorist attacks launched by Hamas on 7 October were horrific and unprecedented and over 1,400 lives were lost. The UK has been unequivocal that Israel has a right to defend itself and restore its security, remove the threat from Hamas and ensure that these attacks can never be repeated. However, the UK has been consistently clear that Israel must abide by international humanitarian law. That includes the Israel Government making every effort to target its campaign on Hamas leaders and operatives, rather than civilians.
The UK Government has provided humanitarian aid which will support trusted partners, including UN agencies on the ground, to deliver lifesaving aid to people in Gaza. Some of this aid has been delivered by RAF planes. The first maritime shipment of aid for Gaza arrived in Egypt in January, carrying 87 tonnes of life-saving aid bound for Gaza.
The Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary have deployed UK military assets to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce regional stability and avoid escalation. In addition, a Royal Navy task group has been moved to the eastern Mediterranean as a contingency measure to support humanitarian efforts. I understand that the Prime Minister also asked for all military teams in Israel, Cyprus and across the region to be bolstered to support contingency planning and the efforts of neighbouring countries to deal with any spill over from instability in Israel. In total, the UK has deployed an additional 1,000 personnel to the Middle East, bringing the total number of Armed Forces personnel deployed to the region to around 2,500.
Since the terrorist attacks against Israel, the UK Government has been working with partners across the region to secure the release of hostages, including British nationals, who have been kidnapped. The safety of British nationals is the UK Government’s utmost priority. In support of the ongoing hostage rescue activity, the UK Ministry of Defence recently announced that it is conducting surveillance flights over the Eastern Mediterranean, including operating in air space over Israel and Gaza. I am informed that surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages. Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.
Clearly, I want to see a peaceful end to this situation. I know that the Government will be using its levers to achieve that aim.