Gaza under siege as Israel vows to retaliate with ‘enormous force’
A British man from Glasgow was among the hundreds of people killed in a surprise attack by Hamas militants on Israel over the weekend. Bernard Cowan, 57, was described by his family as the “kindest, most generous person” who was “horrifically murdered” by the terrorist group.
The attack, which targeted a music festival near the border with Gaza, also left 10 other British citizens missing or presumed dead. More than 700 Israelis and 500 Palestinians have died in the violence so far, as Israel launched a massive counterattack on Gaza.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a “complete siege” on the coastal enclave, cutting off electricity, water, food and fuel to its two million residents. He vowed to use “enormous force” to change the Middle East and said “this is only the beginning” of retaliation.
First Minister’s in-laws trapped in Gaza amid humanitarian crisis
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf revealed that his wife’s parents are trapped in Gaza after travelling there from Dundee last week to visit family. Mr Yousaf, whose wife Nadia El-Nakla is of Palestinian descent, said they were “sick with worry” about her parents and did not know if they would “make it through the night”.
He said: “We are in constant contact with them but the situation is terrifying. They can hear bombs and rockets exploding all around them. They have no electricity, no water, no food. They are living in fear of their lives.”
Aid organisations have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, as Israeli airstrikes have flattened buildings and infrastructure. ActionAid’s Palestine country director Nadim Zaghloul said: “The situation inside Gaza is dire as homes and civilians remain the indiscriminate targets of continuous bombing. Our colleagues have fled their homes and are currently using hospitals as shelters.”
UK supports Israel’s right to defend itself proportionately
The UK government has expressed its support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas’s attacks, but urged both sides to de-escalate the situation and avoid civilian casualties. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to Mr Netanyahu on Sunday and offered him any assistance he needed.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said Hamas terrorists were “shielding themselves among the Palestinian people” and that Israel had a right to respond proportionately. He said: “The truth of the matter is that this was a terrorist attack, perpetrated by Hamas, who are embedded in Gaza, shielding themselves among the Palestinian people in Gaza. And we will continue to support Israel as it seeks to defend itself against this brutal terrorist attack initiated by Hamas.”
The UK has no plans to evacuate its citizens from Israel or Gaza, but advised them to contact the Foreign Office if they need support. Around 50,000 to 60,000 British nationals are believed to be in either Israel or Gaza.
EU suspends payments to Palestinians over ‘scale of terror’
The European Union has announced that it is suspending “all payments immediately” to the Palestinians, citing the “scale of terror and brutality” of Hamas’s attacks against Israel. The EU Commission said the bloc was making the move because it could not support an entity that engages in violence and terrorism.
Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said: “We are shocked and appalled by the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. These are unacceptable and must stop immediately. We cannot continue to fund an authority that sponsors and supports such acts of terror.”
The EU is the largest donor to the Palestinians, providing around €300 million ($350 million) annually. The EU said it would resume its payments once Hamas renounces violence and recognises Israel’s right to exist.
Experts fear ‘unprecedented’ escalation of violence in Middle East
Experts have warned that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could escalate into a regional war that could destabilise the Middle East and threaten global security. They said the attack by Hamas was unprecedented in its scale and sophistication, and that Israel’s response could trigger a wider confrontation with Iran and its allies.
Peter Jackson, professor of Global Security at Glasgow University, said: “I think we’re going to be with a real period of sustained violence for weeks to come. It may in the longer term, threaten Netanyahu’s government, because this is quite a significant intelligence failure of the Israeli intelligence service.”
He added: “I don’t remember ever feeling this pessimistic about peace in the Middle East as I do now.”