Urgent Gaza ceasefire needed – Swinson

Gaza refugee camp (photo:AP)

Jo has criticised the ‘sluggish’ international response, particularly from the Middle East Quartet

Responding to the recent escalation of violence in Gaza, Jo Swinson has called for an urgent ceasefire backed by further repercussions if either side fails to cooperate. Commenting, she said:

“The violence in Gaza has been allowed to escalate in an extremely worrying way over the Christmas and New Year period. The response from the Government, EU foreign ministers and particularly the Middle East Quartet, including Tony Blair, has been sluggish to say the least.

“With civilian casualties mounting, the humanitarian situation deteriorating and conditions becoming increasingly dangerous for aid workers, a ceasefire is urgently needed. A failure to work towards peace should bring serious consequences for both sides, particularly in terms of future EU assistance.

“Israel’s actions in the face of violence from Hamas militants has been wholly disproportionate. Israel knows that, by engaging its military in civilian areas, it is bringing about the likelihood of high levels of civilian casualties. This violence will only serve to strengthen the cause of extremism, as it has done in Lebanon and in Palestine previously.”

Jo has set out her views in a letter to Foreign Secretary David Miliband today, a copy of which is below.

5th January 2009

Dear David,

Crisis in Gaza

It is with great concern that I and many others have watched the escalation of violence in Gaza over the Christmas and New Year period.

Given the impact of its actions on civilians in Gaza, Israel has acted in a manner that is totally disproportionate to the threat it faces from Palestinian militants. Bringing the full force of the Israeli military to bear in civilian areas has inevitably led to innocent Palestinians, including women and children, being killed.

A ceasefire is urgently needed in Gaza. The Government is right to call for this, but must also back up its approach with tangible repercussions for both sides. Britain and the EU must make it clear that if Israel and Hamas fail to agree a ceasefire, the support and cooperation that they will need in future will be jeopardised. Israel has enjoyed a fair measure of Western goodwill in past years, but it must now be left in no doubt that its latest actions are stretching this goodwill to breaking point.

The Middle East Quartet was slow to respond to the current crisis, with violence having been allowed to escalate for several days before high level attempts to secure a ceasefire were made. In your view, should Tony Blair and the Quartet have acted more quickly to broker a ceasefire?

Sadly, the truth of the situation is that violence will only serve to strengthen the cause of extremism, as it has done in Lebanon and in Palestine previously. The suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians will be lengthened by Israel’s short-term political-military strategy.

Yours Sincerely,

Jo Swinson MP

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