Lib Dems call for emergency Gaza debate

By Blaine Williams

Calls for an urgent debate into the Gaza conflict have been issued by the Liberal Democrats amidst Israel’s attacks on aid workers and civilians.

David Heath, Liberal Democrat Commons spokesman, has written a letter to Harriet Harman, leader of the House, calling for an emergency debate into the crisis.

Mr Heath said: “Many people in Britain are viewing events in Gaza with increasing alarm and despair.

“It is important that backbench MPs have the opportunity to make their views known and entirely appropriate for the leader of the House to make time for an issue of such gravity.”

This morning, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg launched a strongly worded attack on the Israelis for not signing up to the ceasefire

“What does the Israeli government think it will gain by flatly rejecting the international outcry for a ceasefire?” he asked.

“Any short-term military success in reducing the number of rocket attacks will be outweighed by increasing international isolation and increasing radicalisation in Gaza itself.”

The plea for a conversation regarding the conflict comes on the back of the suspension of the UN’s main aid agency’s operation in Gaza due to staff being hit by Israeli attacks.

The halt of UN aid operations would continue “until the Israeli authorities can guarantee our safety and security”, the UN said.

Allegations of Israeli aggression have been condemned by Edward Davy, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, who said: “It is disgraceful that UN staff and institutions have been hit by military attacks on so many occasions.”

Mr Davy also highlights the perceived disproportionate nature of Israel’s attacks and the potentially illegal use of white phosphorus on civilians.

White phosphorus, known as ‘WP’ in military slang, is an incendiary weapon that causes deep and serious burns to individuals and the use of which on civilians has been banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This is not the first time that Israel has been accused of using these cruel weapons on civilians. In the 2006 conflict with Lebanon Emile Lahoud, president of Lebanon, commented that the chemical weapon had been used against civilians.

Photographic evidence of the Israeli army using ‘WP’ has been revealed, despite the Israeli Defence Force denying the accusation.

Israel’s actions over the course of the last 14 days have also led Mr Davy to follow up on Nick Clegg’s comments to Gordon Brown calling for a complete halt to exporting arms to Israel and to stop “sitting on his hands”.

“Along with the apparent use of white phosphorous in civilian areas, this demonstrates just how disproportionate Israel’s military action has been,” he said.

“Britain and the EU must now move to block all arms exports to Israel and use their influence in the region to bring about an immediate ceasefire.

“The international community must also give its full support to halting the smuggling of arms into Gaza.”

An estimated 770 Palestinians and 14 Israelis have died in the conflict.

The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.