I left Hendon at 4am this morning and travelled to Heathrow for a six-day visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Just before 6am, I became aware that Israel had suffered significant numbers of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. After a significant delay, I was surprised that the airline decided to go ahead with the flight. However, following a discussion with the Middle East Minister, our delegation decided that our presence in the country would put additional strain upon the security services, would be difficult to undertake given security restrictions and would not be a productive visit.
Since this morning, the media have broadcast reports of atrocities being committed against civilians. Taking such people hostage and murdering others is simply unacceptable. Lack of action in the peace process cannot be used as an excuse.
On a practical level, there are many people who are not able to return to the UK as a result of this violence. If any constituent is in such a position and needs a temporary place to stay, an application can be made here:
The immediate concern is to stop the violence and I will be in discussions with the Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom to press for action to help Israel to ensure this happens.
In the medium term, I have concerns about neighbouring countries, particularly Syria and Lebanon - both suffering unique problems. In addition, the exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh, the shelling of the Syrian Defence Force in North East Syria and today’s unexpected events gives rise to suspicions of the influence of a regional actor.