UK presses for full investigation into reports Gazan medical staff were beaten

A full investigation must be carried out into reports that Gazan medical staff were beaten and humiliated by Israeli troops, Andrew Mitchell has said.

The BBC reported that staff at Nasser Hospital, in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, were blindfolded, forced to strip, and were repeatedly beaten by soldiers from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

The IDF has not responded directly to accounts the BBC has put to it, but denies medical staff were harmed in its operation.

Mr Mitchell, who acts as a deputy for Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron in the Commons, told MPs: “We have seen these reports. I think that a full explanation and investigation is required and that is what the British Government is pressing for.”

Responding to a question from Labour MP for Cynon Valley Beth Winter about the “shocking reports”, the minister added: “I would point out to her that when it comes to targeting operations there are lawyers embedded in the Israeli and the IDF command, just as there are in Britain, and that should ensure that the acceptance and honouring of international humanitarian law is kept, but I agree with her a full explanation is required.”

Speaking later in the House of Lords, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton said: “These are very disturbing pictures and reports that have come out from this hospital and we need to get to the bottom of what exactly happened and we need answers from the Israelis about that.”

Elsewhere, Mr Mitchell was pressed to restore funding to UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), the main United Nations aid agency in the Palestinian territories.

The UK is among a group of countries which have halted funding to the agency amid allegations from Israel that some UNRWA staff members have colluded with Hamas.

Budget 2024
Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron, left, and Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell (James Manning/PA)

Mr Mitchell said he hoped funding could be restored by April, but assured MPs that UNRWA has enough money to ensure “adequate supplies are available” as the UK awaits Ms Colonna’s report, as well as the results of an internal UN probe.

“The view that we take is that when we have seen those, we very much hope we will have the reassurance to recommence funding,” he added.

Mr Mitchell also signalled that the UK wants to see illegal settlers in Palestinian territories “arrested, tried and punished”.

Shadow Foreign Office minister Wayne David told the Commons: “Last week Israel advanced plans for 3,400 new homes in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“As a two-state solution is the only path to a lasting peace, does the minister agree that a firm position must be taken now by the United Kingdom and the international community on these issues?”

Mr Mitchell said he was in “broad agreement” with Mr David, adding: “The steps that Britain wants to see taken against illegal settlements and against those settlers who have committed crimes, we want to see them arrested, tried and punished for those crimes.

“In respect of the Palestinian Authority, we want to see the Palestinian Authority reinvigorated and with new leadership, and a strong approach to taking up the roles that it will need to do when the sky clears and there’s a moment for the political track to begin.”

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