David Blackburn

Hague pitches it right

Hague pitches it right
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It would be wrong to pass comment on the loss of life on the Gaza Flotilla; the facts are not established. Israel is right to investigate convoys that it feels might be supplying Hamas with arms. But, as ever in the Middle East conflict, it must be determined whether Israel’s use of force was proportionate. Not that the answer to that question ever deters Hamas from terror or Israel from retaliation. Peace does not lie in abstract nouns.

However, international law will determine the facts of this incident, and perhaps bring clarity to the divisive Gaza border issue. William Hague’s statement is temperate, acknowledging both sides of the debate and calling for the abolition of the Gaza blockade policy - a policy that, regardless of the apparent sense in pursuing it, provokes Palestinian animosity and perpetuates violence. Counter-productive policy should always be abandoned.

‘I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.  We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way, because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It will be important to establish the facts about this incident, and especially whether enough was done to prevent deaths and injuries.

This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UNSCR 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis. I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians.’