Israel has gone beyond self-defence in Gaza, Tory MP Alicia Kearns says

Israel has “gone beyond self-defence” and lost the moral authority in its war with Hamas, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee has said.

Tory MP Alicia Kearns told the BBC she thinks Israel has broken international law and risks increasing support for Hamas among Palestinians.

She said: “Bombs don’t obliterate an ideology and neither can a stable state be constructed from oblivion.”

Former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has also criticised Israel’s tactics.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said Israel’s legal basis for military action in Gaza was “being undermined” and warned its government was “making the mistake of losing its moral authority alongside its legal one”.

Asked if she agreed with Mr Wallace that Israel has damaged its standing with its conduct in Gaza, Ms Kearns told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “I think unfortunately it has.

“International humanitarian law in my view has been broken.”

She said a truce that could be turned into a lasting ceasefire should be pursued, rather than a focus on the eradication of Hamas – which Israel, the UK, US and some other Western powers class as a terrorist organisation.

Ten Tory MPs – including former Cabinet ministers Kit Malthouse and George Eustice – have written to the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron urging him to push for an “immediate ceasefire”, describing Israel’s strategy as “neither proportionate nor targeted”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted operations, which were launched when Hamas carried out an unprecedented assault on Israel on 7 October, will continue until the group is dismantled.

Around 1,200 people were killed and an estimated 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas – and despite some being returned during a temporary truce, about 120 are still thought to be inside Gaza.

Ms Kearns – who chairs the committee of MPs tasked with holding the Foreign Office to account – warned Israel could inadvertently increase support for Hamas among Palestinians.

She said: “Hamas is an ideology which recruits into its membership.”

An opinion poll carried out between 22 November and 2 December by a respected Palestinian think tank, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, found that support for Hamas had more than tripled in the occupied West Bank compared to three months ago.

Supporters of Hamas were still in a minority, but 70% of the respondents said armed struggle was the best means of ending the Israeli occupation.

Smoke rising over Gaza

Israel has carried out air strikes and land operations against targets in Gaza

Israel has come under growing international pressure over the scale of civilian casualties in Gaza, which Hamas-controlled authorities put at more than 19,400.

The same authorities claimed 110 people were killed on Sunday in Israeli air strikes on the Jabalia refugee camp, which had been the largest settlement for displaced people prior to the current fighting.

The retaliatory Israeli offensive has seen much of northern Gaza damaged and 85% of the territory’s 2.3 million population driven from their homes.

On Sunday, Lord Cameron signalled a shift in tone from the government by calling for a “sustainable ceasefire” – echoing a form of words Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used in the Commons last week.

Writing in the Sunday Times, the foreign secretary said: “Our goal cannot simply be an end to fighting today. It must be peace lasting for days, years, generations.”

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Scotland on Monday, Mr Sunak called for Israel to respect humanitarian law, adding: “It’s clear that too many civilian lives have been lost and nobody wants to see this conflict go on a day longer than it has to.”

The government has consistently stopped short of calling for a full ceasefire, saying it respects Israel’s right to self-defence.

Israeli soldiers in a tunnel

The Israeli military said it located a large underground tunnel constructed by Hamas on Sunday

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy pushed back against Mr Wallace’s criticism, describing his choice of words as “unfortunate language”.

He told the BBC said allowing Hamas to “literally get away with murder” would be more likely to radicalise people than Israel’s military tactics.

However, Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, accused the Israeli army of normalising “the mass murder of children, [and] women” and “the mass destruction of hospitals, schools, churches, mosques”.

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