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‘Stop the slaughter’ says Christian Aid, as Gaza ceasefire calls gain momentum

21 February 2024

Alamy

The offensive against Hamas continued this week in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, where explosions were witnessed on Tuesday

The offensive against Hamas continued this week in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, where explosions were witnessed on Tuesday

“UK POLITICIANS must vote to stop the slaughter and vote for an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” Christian Aid told Parliament on the eve of a crucial debate and vote on the Israel-Hamas conflict on Wednesday.

“When they step into the chamber to vote, MPs and ministers must put aside politics and imagine it were their own mother or father, son or daughter, trapped in Gaza facing injury or death,” Christian Aid’s head of UK advocacy and campaigns, Jennifer Larbie, said.

“UK politicians must vote to stop the slaughter and vote for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. In doing so, they will undoubtedly save lives. By failing to do so, they will continue to ensure the UK is complicit in the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war have increased since the House of Bishops issued its statement, calling for an immediate ceasefire, on Tuesday of last week (News, 16 February). The debate and vote on the Commons motion took place at the time of going to press.

On a visit to the Holy Land this week, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Professor Jerry Pillay, met separately with religious and political leaders to press for a ceasefire.

“As a worldwide fellowship of Churches, we continue to express our compassion and prayers for the ending of the war, the healing of deep wounds, and respect for human lives and rights,” Professor Pillay said.

“We urge all parties and powers concerned to seek an immediate ceasefire and enter dialogues to establish just peace, safety, and security in both Israel and Palestine. We call on the international community, especially political leaders, to support these endeavours and to act urgently.”

Professor Pillay met the Israeli President, Isaac Herzog; the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas; the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem; and Sheikh Azzam Khatib, of the Islamic Waqf, in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, the Labour Party demanded an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” for the first time, as it tabled an amendment to the SNP ceasefire motion. In November, only 56 Labour MPs had backed the SNP’s calls for a ceasefire.

Labour debates in recent days have reflected how the Israel-Hamas situation has “evolved”, and the party is now “mirroring the language” of the UN, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, said.

The Prince of Wales, during a visit to the Red Cross in London on the same day, said that “too many have been killed”, referring to the “terrible human cost of the conflict in the Middle East since the Hamas terrorist attack”, and calling for an “end to the fighting as soon as possible”. The Government had been made aware of his intended comments in advance.

At a vigil for Gaza at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, in London, on Monday, a Palestinian pastor, the Revd Dr Munther Isaac, called for action on Gaza. “What happened to the conscience of world leaders? We have been pleading ‘Lord have mercy’ for 130 days. The world needs to repent from apathy.”

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the Archbishop Canterbury had declined to meet Dr Isaac, who has been critical of Israel in Gaza, because Dr Isaac had planned to speak at a pro-Palestinian rally alongside the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In an interview with the paper, Dr Isaac said: “It’s shameful. It’s not my type of Christianity not to be willing to meet another pastor because you don’t want to explain why you met him. This sums up the Church of England. They danced around positions and ended up saying nothing. They lack the courage to say things.”

In response to an approach from the Church Times on Wednesday afternoon, a Lambeth Palace spokesperson confirmed that the Palace did not comment on private meetings.

 

During a House of Lords questions session last week, Archbishop Welby asked the Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, about “the West Bank, where it is almost forgotten that very large numbers of Palestinians have been killed by people who live in illegal settlements”.

Archbishop Welby also asked what support was available for Jordan, “given its vulnerability and its significant responsibility as guardian of the holy places”, and “the practicalities for Jordan in preparing for or aiding a two-state solution”, should it receive a large number of refugees.

Lord Cameron agreed that “there have been a series of very worrying developments and disturbances”, and referred to the “chilling statistic that, since 7 October, 96 Palestinian children have been killed in the West Bank”. He said that the Government had, only the day before, “announced for the first time some sanctions against violent settlers who are carrying out criminal acts in the West Bank”.

He referred to “the incredible work Jordan does in looking after refugees”, and said “we have given a huge amount of aid and assistance to help it with the job that it has done”. He also spoke on the two-state solution, and how “the Jordanians can play a big role in helping to bring that about.”

Israel has set a deadline of 10 March for the release of all hostages held in Gaza by Hamas. Otherwise, it says, it will launch its ground offensive in Rafah. The news has alarmed the international community. About 1.5 million Palestinians are believed to be sheltering in the city, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

The United States government has said that the ground offensive into Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances”.

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