By Shahid Qureshi
(London) Philip Hammond deeply concerned by Gaza crisis; urges continued efforts towards ceasefire. Visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 23 and 24 July, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The Foreign Secretary said:
The conflict in Gaza is taking a terrible toll. With more than 700 Palestinians killed, including more than 150 children, as well as the loss of more than 30 Israeli lives, it is beyond time to bring an end to this conflict and stop the bloodshed.
I stressed to all those I saw my deep concern at the high numbers of civilian casualties and the humanitarian impact of the conflict. I underlined the need for all concerned to exert every effort to secure an immediate ceasefire to end the violence.
With President Abbas, I expressed my concern for the heavy loss of civilian lives in Gaza, including many women and children. I reiterated the UK’s strong support for his leadership and thanked him for his own efforts to achieve a ceasefire. I stressed that, once a ceasefire is secured, there is an urgent need for a long term plan for Gaza.
With Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman, I expressed my deep concern at Hamas’s rocket attacks and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. I urged that Israeli forces do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties, and stressed the need for a rapid conclusion to their ground operation in Gaza.
With all, I emphasised the UK’s support for the US-Egyptian led efforts to broker a ceasefire, which remains the best means of ending the current violence and preventing further loss of life. For a ceasefire to be durable, there must then be rapid movement to address the underlying causes of the conflict, with a central role for the Palestinian Authority and a strong one for the international community.
The current crisis underlines once again the need for a wider political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is the only way to secure a lasting peace.