Hamas ‘wouldn’t abide by any ceasefire and Israel must defend itself’ – MP

Israel has ‘right to defend itself’ says Robert Courts

Israel has no choice but to defend itself against “barbaric” attacks by Hamas, a terrorist organisation which would not abide by a ceasefire even if the UK Government did back the idea, the chairman of Parliament’s defence committee has said.

Robert Courts was speaking the day after Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, ruled out any prospect of a truce after Hamas’s attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 of his countrymen.

He was also speaking in a week in which junior minister Paul Bristow was fired by Prime Sunak Rishi Sunak for calling for a ceasefire, while Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer is coming under intense pressure to back the idea.

Mr Courts, the Conservative MP for Witney, told Express.co.uk he believed there was nevertheless a “broad cross-party consensus” on the issue.

He said: “Israel has the right to defend itself.

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“Israel has been the victim of a barbaric attack which is unparalleled since the Holocaust from people who are terrorists, and are people who are conducting warfare and most barbaric way.

“So Israel has one of the hardest military tasks imaginable as they fight that campaign.

“They are dealing with an enemy who deliberately embed themselves within the civilian population, which means that there is going to be increased damage there.

“And that is something that Hamas are doing absolutely deliberately.

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“So I think that has to be remembered at all times, the incredible difficulty of the military campaign that they are fighting.”

Asked about the feasibility of both sides laying down their weapons, Mr Courts continued: “I think the difficulty with any suggestion of a ceasefire is whether Hamas would accept one.

“Hamas has no intention of complying with the laws of war, with international law, and Israel, which of course does do so.

“And I think it’s all very well asking for a ceasefire but I think there has to be a lot of consideration to what form that would actually take and what that would really mean in reality.”

As a Tory MP, Mr Courts was one of those who listened to BBC director general when he addressed the 1922 Committee last week.

And while drawing short of criticising the BBC for its editorial policy of not describing Hamas as such, Mr Courts stressed: “From my personal perspective, I think it’s very clear that Hamas are terrorists and we should be calling them by that word.”

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Mr Netanyahu told reporters yesterday: “The Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war.”

In recent days, Israel celebrated the release of a soldier held captive by Hamas militants after troops and tanks pushed deeper into Gaza.

However, the United Nations is warning continued air strikes are exploding closer to hospitals, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter alongside thousands of wounded.

Humanitarian pauses typically last for hours or days, with the aim of providing aid and support or allowing people to leave a region, rather than achieving long-term political solutions, according to the UN.

By contrast, ceasefires are intended to be long-term and usually seek to allow parties to engage in talks, including the possibility of reaching a permanent political settlement.

In the UK, both Labour and the Conservatives have grappled with rebellious MPs who have called for a full cessation of hostilities, instead voicing support for a humanitarian pause.

Roads minister Richard Holden renewed the Government’s appeal for a break in the conflict to get aid in as he appeared on Tuesday’s morning media round.

But he also reiterated support for Israel, saying he had not seen anything to suggest the country was not acting in accordance with the Geneva Conventions in its fightback against Hamas.

He told Sky News: “On a personal level I’m not an international lawyer but I’ve not seen anything which really says that it isn’t acting in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. I want Israel to respond in a sensible way to this. I think it’s very difficult for Israel at the same time, who are fighting essentially a terrorist organisation who have no rules.”

Mr Bristow was asked to resign from his job as a ministerial aide at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology after urging Rishi Sunak to back a full ceasefire.

Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israel Defence Force (IDF) yesterday confirmed Israeli jets had carried out a missile strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, which he said had killed senior Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari.

The Hamas-run health ministry and the director of a hospital have both said at least 50 others were also killed in the attack, with pictures showing destroyed buildings and a crater.

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