On 15 May, a man my age was killed by a missile a few streets from my house in Ramat Gan. Gershon Franko was killed as he sat in his home – he was unable to reach a shelter in time.
During the conflict earlier this year, Israelis fled to shelters as Hamas rockets rained down. We can protect ourselves as best we can – rushing to shelters; the remarkable Iron Dome technology – but rockets don’t discriminate; anyone can be a victim.
Thirteen in Israel sadly lost their lives in May. As rockets fell on Israeli towns and cities, Gazans also hid from IDF shelling targeting Hamas, who intentionally launched rockets from densely populated areas. More than 250 Palestinian civilians were killed in this round of violence, including 66 children.
Over the course of the conflict, Hamas continued to fire rockets indiscriminately – over 4360 in total. There is no justification for these actions; they are terrorism.
Ultimately, Hamas’ ongoing decision to embrace violence and terrorism lies at the heart of the Gazan tragedy. Hamas’ military wing has been proscribed in the UK since 2001. The UK now assess that the links between the senior leaders of Hamas’ political and military wings, and setting of strategy by its overall leadership mean that the distinction between the two wings is untenable.
That is why we now believe it is right to proscribe the entire organization.
What does this mean? It will now be a criminal offence in the UK to belong to or invite support for Hamas. It will also be a criminal offence to arrange a meeting in support of Hamas, or to show support through items of clothing. Anyone found to have breached these will face a maximum of 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
This decision does not change our support for Gazans who suffer from the conflict and under Hamas’ misrule. It’s clear that a long-term solution for Gaza and the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed to prevent further human tragedy.
UK aid is supporting initiatives to improve the lives of Palestinians throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza.
We are encouraging the governments of Israel and Palestinian Authority to engage directly to resolve key issues and reduce tensions as a step towards a peaceful solution to the conflict. And we welcomed Foreign Minister Lapid’s speech proposing positive policy suggestions to support economic development in Gaza and greater security for Israel.
We will continue to do all we can to work towards a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and remain committed to a two state solution. And we will continue to fully support Israel’s right to defend its citizens from acts of terror.
Neil Wigan is the British ambassador to Israel