Select Committee on European Union Forty-Third Report


APPENDIX 2: LETTER FROM THE MINISTER FOR EUROPE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE, DATED 25 JULY 2006


ISRAEL/GAZA: CASUALTIES

During my appearance before your committee on 13 July I promised to write with information on known casualties in the current military conflict between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.

We estimate that since 4 May (when the Israeli government came into office) 221 Palestinians and 5 Israelis were killed in the conflict in Gaza. These figures include civilians, militants and soldiers. It is extremely difficult to assess with any accuracy how many on the Palestinian side were civilians. They are also higher than indicated in the recent evidence session. This is due to the figure including militants and soldiers. We regret all civilian deaths and hope that both sides can move forward from the recent violence.

I am deeply concerned at recent events. The escalation of this crisis poses a serious threat for Israel, the Occupied Territories and now Lebanon and the wider security of the region. We continue to raise our concerns on a regular basis with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and call upon all parties in the region to make every effort possible to resolve the current situation by peaceful means.

We strongly support the EU's and UN's efforts to arrange, as quickly as possible, a ceasefire and the release of the abducted soldiers. We call have continued to call for the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and end to attacks on Israeli towns and cities. We urge all those countries with influence over Hizbollah and Hamas to play their part.

Israel has every right to act in self- defence. But we have urged the Israeli military to do everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties and conform by international law. All military action should abide by the principle of proportionality. As my Rt. Hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 18 July "It is important that Israel's response is proportionate and does its best to minimise civilian casualties, but it would stop now if the soldiers who were kidnapped-wrongly, when Hizbollah crossed the United Nations blue line-were released. It would stop if the rockets stopped coming into Haifa, deliberately to kill innocent civilians."

I am writing in similar terms to the Chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, copying to the Clerks of both Committees and to Les Saunders at the Cabinet Office, Chris Banahan, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator, and Tammy Sandhu, Select Committee Liaison Officer.



 
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