British lawmaker Layla Moran, who is of Palestinian descent, made an impassioned plea in parliament Wednesday for the UK to support every effort to stop the escalating violence in Israel and Palestine, especially in Jerusalem, Anadolu Agency reported.
She started by reading the names of children killed in the latest bout of violence: “Ibrahim al-Masri, 11. Marwan al-Masri, 6. Rahaf al-Masri, 10. And Yazan al-Masri, aged just two. These are some of the names of the children killed this week, and last night, an Israeli child was added to their numbers.”
“My heart breaks for them. My heart bleeds for Palestine, for Jerusalem, the city of my family, for worshippers attacked by extremists at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the holiest night of Ramadan. And for all innocent civilians, Israeli and Palestinian. We cannot allow this to escalate any further.
“The Israeli government, pursuing evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, that would be illegal under international humanitarian law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, and the subsequent overly aggressive reaction of the Israeli authorities that injured hundreds has ignited a tinderbox. And [the Palestinian resistance group] Hamas then retaliated, and those strikes must be condemned too – because violence only begets more violence,” she added.
Moran has been the MP for Oxford West and Abington since 2017. She is also the Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Party.
In her speech, she said: “The United Kingdom has a historic responsibility to the people of Palestine and a fundamental obligation to uphold international law. That two-state solution, as promised to the likes of my family, is as elusive as ever. It is time for the government to not just say, but do.”
Moran was speaking just after the government’s Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, made a statement to parliament on the situation in Jerusalem in response to an urgent question Moran herself had put to parliament.
In her speech, she asked the minister if the UK would back UN Security Council resolutions condemning attacks regardless of the US’ position and whether the UK will work with the European Union “to issue a statement on de-escalation in their strongest possible terms today. Now.” She also pressed the UK government on what it was doing to stop the attempted illegal evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and whether the government supports further peace negotiations.
She concluded by asking: “If this isn’t the time to recognize the state of Palestine, then when is?”
Cleverly avoided the more substantive of Moran’s questions but said the UK would work with international partners on this issue.
‘Israel has a legitimate right to self-defense’
“I recognize the passion with which [Moran] speaks, and her personal connection to both Jerusalem and the region,” Cleverly said.
“We all mourn, we all feel the deepest sympathy and condolences for those who have lost children and loved ones, whether they be in Gaza or Israel. And it is in everybody’s interest to de-escalate,” he added.
Earlier, giving the government’s statement on the situation in Jerusalem, Cleverly said the recent escalation of violence was “deeply concerning” and that “every effort must be made to stop the loss of life, especially that of children.”
He called on all sides to refrain from provocation but focused on Hamas’s rocket attacks against Israel.
“The UK unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets at Jerusalem and other locations in Israel. We strongly condemn these acts of terrorism from Hamas and other terrorist groups who must permanently end their incitement and rocket fire against Israel. There is no justification for any targeting of civilians,” he said.
“Israel has a legitimate right to self-defense and to defend the citizens from attack. In doing so, it is vital that all actions are proportionate, in line with international humanitarian law and make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. Violence against peaceful worshippers of any faith is unacceptable. The UK has been clear that the attacks on worshippers must stop. The status quo in Jerusalem is important at all times but especially so during religious festivals such as Ramadan.
“We are concerned about tensions in Jerusalem linked to threatened evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. That threat is allayed for now, but we urge Israel to cease such actions, which in most cases are contrary to international humanitarian law,” he added.
He concluded by stating that the UK remained committed to a two-state solution and that all sides had to show “maximum restraint” and avoid taking actions that endangered civilians and that made peace more difficult.
Rising number of civilian deaths
The death toll of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces since the start of their offensive on the Gaza Strip has risen to 67, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. At least 388 others have been injured.
Tensions have been running high since last week after an Israeli court ordered the evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
Palestinians protesting in solidarity with residents of Sheikh Jarrah have been targeted by Israeli forces.
Six Israelis have also been killed and at least 45 others injured in Palestinian rocket attacks.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.