The people of Gaza must not be forgotten

THE population of Glasgow is just under 600,000 and the city is the largest in Scotland, with its people spread around a wide area, encompassing many different kinds of houses.

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So, just for a minute, think what it would be like if 500,000 of those people lived in the centre of the city.

That might help you envisage the scene in Gaza, where almost half a million Palestinians live in an area of 17 square miles of land – roughly the size of Central Glasgow.

So, like many of my constituents, I was shocked to see the scenes of destruction in Gaza over the last few weeks.

While I am relieved to see a negotiated ceasefire is holding, this will only be a success if it leads to serious and genuine negotiations that will rekindle what is left of the peace process and facilitate a lasting, sustainable two-state solution.

I am saddened by any loss of life on either side but, as I said in Parliament last week, the UK Government must act without double standards and in a way that treats every human life as equal.

That is why I was shocked by the response of Foreign Secretary William Hague, who very quickly laid the "principal responsibility" for the violence at the feet of the Palestinians. This is neither helpful nor an honest appraisal of the issue.

In a letter replying to his position, I called on Mr Hague as our country's international representative to use our position as a leading and influential member of the international community, to focus efforts on immediately ending the bloodshed, instead of playing the blame game.

I believe the international community cannot just stand by and allow the destruction in Gaza.

Israel's government must be held accountable for any military force in Gaza.

The use of powerful military equipment in such a densely populated area has resulted in large numbers of civilian casualties.

Many people living not just in Gaza City but the wider Gaza Strip live in dire poverty; hundreds of thousands reside in UN refugee camps facing severe hardship.

And this is due to the blockade by the Israeli government, which controls Gaza's airspace, coast and most of its borders.

The result last week of the vote on Palestinian membership of the United Nations – which resulted in enhanced status for the Palestinians – shows just how split the international community is on the issue.

But what we must not allow to happen is for the Gazan people to be forgotten in the middle and left to humanitarian disaster.

With clear and overwhelming support for a two-state resolution and overwhelming public support for it in the UK, I hope the UK Government will pursue every avenue to secure a lasting resolution.

Local government

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