Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : The situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories continues to deteriorate – UK statement at the Security Council [May 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 24 May 2023.

Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

President, the security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has deteriorated further to the detriment of both Israelis and Palestinians.

In Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant factions fired 1,748 rockets at Israel. Indiscriminate rockets from Gaza caused the needless deaths of an Israeli and 4 Gazans. The UK condemns unequivocally the indiscriminate fire of rockets against civilians and all forms of terrorism. The UK Foreign Secretary welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and militant factions in Gaza, and is grateful for the support of Egypt, Qatar and the US. We urge all parties to honour the ceasefire and prevent further loss of life.

President, the UK supports Israel’s right to self-defence. But Israeli conduct must always be in line with international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, humanity, proportionality and military necessity. We were concerned by the reports of at least 12 civilian deaths, including 6 children, in Israeli strikes in Gaza.

This month, we have also seen further deaths in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces have killed 110 Palestinians this year, including militants and civilians. If killing continues at this rate, 2023 will be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since UN records began in 2004. Israeli security forces must show restraint in their use of force and investigate civilian casualties. 19 Israelis, residents and tourists including Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, have already been killed in terrorist attacks in 2023. The Palestinian Authority must also re-assert control over Area A and take steps to tackle terrorism.

President, a solution to this conflict won’t be found until both Israel and the Palestinians tackle inflammatory rhetoric and incitement, as they agreed in Sharm El Sheikh on 19 March. Yet only last week, we heard from President Abbas and Israeli participants in the Flag March in Jerusalem racist slogans and slurs. Such rhetoric and incitement, including by both Israeli and Palestinian political leaders undermines the cause of peace.

Israel must also tackle increasing settler violence and coercion which on Monday resulted in the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population from Ein Samiya and desist from settler expansion which is illegal under international law.

Finally President, the United Kingdom also strongly supports the historic Status Quo governing Jerusalem’s holy sites and values the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s important role as custodian.

The UK remains firm in its belief that a negotiated two state solution, based on 1967 lines with Jerusalem as a shared capital, is the only way to ensure a lasting peace, security and prosperity between the two parties.

At the General Assembly committee meeting on voluntary contributions to UNRWA in June, it is vital that the international community puts the agency onto a sustainable footing to protect the delivery of critical services to millions of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA is crucial to stability throughout the region.

As the Foreign Secretary stated on 14 May, the UK will support all efforts to promote dialogue and create a pathway towards a just and sustainable peace. The first step on that pathway is clear: both sides must honour the commitments they made in good faith in Aqaba and Sharm El Sheikh.