As I walked through Kibbutz Kfar Aza last Thursday, it was chilling to be told once again of the atrocities perpetrated there. This was part of a five day visit to Israel I undertook last week as part of a delegation of MPs hosted by Conservative Friends of Israel.
Three months on from 7th October, too many people seem to have lost sight of why Israel is engaged in war in Gaza. Concern about the plight of ordinary Gazans is understandable, and the IDF must continue to make every effort to minimise civilian casualties, but those who demand a ceasefire now are effectively asking Israel to surrender unilaterally.
Leaving Hamas in charge in Gaza with the terrorist infrastructure they have spent years building up would risk a repeat of the horrors that occurred just over 90 days ago.
Having watched the harrowing 47 minute film documenting Hamas violence, and seen for myself the devastation in Kfar Aza, that is something I cannot accept, and no else should either. Israel not only has a right to defend its citizens from attack, it has an obligation to.
Hamas have no hesitation in using Gazans as human shields and they are now attempting to use the humanitarian situation as a weapon of war to undermine international support for Israel.
The UK Government has been one of the staunchest supporters of Israel since 7th October and there must be no backsliding in UK support for Israel’s war to remove Hamas from power in Gaza and destroy the capability of this terrorist group to repeat their crimes.
It is clearer than ever that those crimes include rape and sexual violence. The MP group visiting Israel heard from Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari about the increasing evidence of what took place. It is shameful that the UN and other humanitarian organisations have yet to fully recognise what happened. The world needs to wake up to this aspect of the barbaric Hamas attack.
An especially chilling moment came when the group visited an exhibition on the Nova music festival. Created by survivors of the attack, it includes material retrieved from the site, such as tents and burnt out cars. Screens show poignant messages as victims sent their final words to parents and friends. As one of the organisers put it: “400 youngsters came to dance and enjoying life and found their death”.
I have been struck again and again by the similarities between 7th October and the Holocaust, never more so than when I saw tables at the Nova exhibition covered in shoes and bags left by young people fleeing for their lives, providing a disturbing reminder of the piles of belongings taken from Jewish people on arrival at the death camps.
But my visit also gave me some grounds for optimism and hope. I was moved by the dignity and determination of the families waiting for the return of hostages. I was inspired by the stories of the people who survived the attack like Noa Beer, who calmly and bravely drove her car through a hail of bullets to save four people; and Nimrod Palmach, an IDF reservist who got in his car as soon as he heard people were in danger and drove to southern Israel with only a hand gun and nine bullets.
And I was deeply moved to hear the story of Rami Davidian who received a call early on 7th October from a friend asking him to try to find his son who was escaping from the nearby Nova festival. Rami then spent the whole of the next two days driving in and out of the danger area, rescuing over 500 young people.
- Theresa Villiers is Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet.
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