Israeli embassy criticises British MPs over Gaza letter

The Israeli embassy in London has hit back at a group of parliamentarians who blamed Israel for the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

In a letter published in the Guardian on December 27 - marking the fifth anniversary of Operation Cast Lead - more than two dozen MPs and peers called for the British government to "to take immediate action to bring an end to the blockade on Gaza".

The letter blamed Israel solely for conditions in the Hamas-controlled territory. They made no reference to the Palestinian group, and failed to mention the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians in the run-up to the 2008-09 IDF operation.

Among the signatories were Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, Lib Dem MPs Julian Huppert and David Ward, controversial peer Baroness Tonge, and chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hugh Lanning.

They wrote of the aftermath of Cast Lead: "And what of the survivors? For the 1.7 million living in the tiny Gaza Strip, life has become increasingly desperate because of Israel's continuing blockade.

"This blockade has also resulted in unacceptable limits on personal freedom."

But in a response published on Tuesday, Yiftah Curiel, press attache at the embassy, accused the Parliamentarians of making "crucial omissions" in their letter.

"The most striking is any reference to the responsibility of the Hamas terrorist organisation, which has taken Gaza hostage," he wrote.

"There was, it should be recalled, no blockade on Gaza before Hamas launched hundreds of rockets forcing over one million Israelis to live within seconds of bomb shelters.

"Nor would there be any reason for the restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt on Gaza if Hamas were not working ceaselessly to acquire weaponry to carry out further attacks."

Mr Curiel also said the parliamentarians were wrong in their letter to compare Gaza's size to that of Newcastle. He said the city in the north east was only one-third the size of the Palestinian territory.

Last updated: 4:02pm, January 2 2014