Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP, Minister
for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman
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 five 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 kidnappedwrongly, when Hizbollah
crossed the United Nations blue linewere released. It would
stop if the rockets stopped coming into Haifa, deliberately to
kill innocent civilians."
25 July 2006