External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The start of a ground offensive is a serious and worrying development. The lives lost in this conflict are individual human tragedies and the killing of innocent civilians, be they Palestinian or Israeli, is to be utterly condemned. The rocket attacks on Israel are unacceptable and should stop, as should the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which is heavily disproportionate, as demonstrated by the mounting civilian death toll.
“As a Government we continue to call for a complete cessation to all violence and add our voice to those in the international community for an immediate, longer term ceasefire, and that both sides in this conflict put an end to the violence that is causing so many civilian deaths and injuries.
“The worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza has been well documented and the UN now estimates that over 18,000 people have been internally displaced. I have today written to the Home Secretary and told her that Scotland would be willing to accept Palestinian refugees and urged the UK to also play a part in easing the refugee crisis in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“It is essential that the UN should be allowed to independently investigate all civilian deaths to determine whether there has been any violation of international law.
“Our offer of medical assistance to help the humanitarian situation still stands and we are currently in dialogue with the appropriate Governments and agencies to assess whether Scotland can give specialist medical help to civilians caught up in the conflict should should this prove possible.
“The Scottish Government also believes that the continuation of the blockade in Gaza is exacerbating the suffering experienced by the people there and tantamount to collective punishment. For that reason I recently wrote to the UK Government to exert further pressure on the Israeli Government to bring that blockade to an end.”
The UK Ambassador to the United Nations Sir Mark Lyall Grant outlined the UK’s government’s position on the conflict during a UN Security Council briefing yesterday.
The diplomat said: “The United Kingdom has three objectives: to secure a ceasefire; to alleviate humanitarian suffering; and to keep alive the prospects for peace negotiations, which are the only hope of breaking this cycle of violence and devastation once and for all.
“My Government’s position remains clear. We want to see immediate de-escalation, and agreement on a durable ceasefire. The people of Israel have the right to live without constant fear for their security; the people of Gaza have the right to live safely in peace. Steps must be taken now to address the underlying causes of the conflict.
“We welcomed the Egyptian–proposed ceasefire, we welcomed Israel’s acceptance in principle of the terms of the proposed ceasefire agreement, and we welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s endorsement of the Egyptian initiative. We also welcomed the UN facilitated humanitarian pause on 17 July.
“We call on Hamas, and all militant factions in Gaza, to cease hostilities, ending all rocket fire into Israel. We utterly condemn the firing of rockets into civilian areas.
“Let me reiterate our support for Israel’s right to self-defence. Israel faces a tough dilemma in responding to unacceptable rocket fire from Gaza. But in exercising its right to self-defence Israel must act proportionately, and take all necessary steps to minimise civilian casualties. As we have heard this afternoon, many innocent civilians are being killed.
“Mr President, On our second objective, we are deeply concerned by the dire humanitarian situation. There are hundreds of thousands of extremely vulnerable civilians in Gaza, who are suffering acutely from this crisis. Access to clean water, power and medicines is becoming critically difficult.
“We urge all parties to continue to enable unhindered access throughout Gaza. The United Kingdom support has enabled UNRWA to respond to the crisis by continuing to provide crucial health services.
“On the third objective, any ceasefire needs to be genuinely sustainable. It is important to tackle the underlying causes of instability in the Gaza strip, without which the long-term security of both Israel and Gaza cannot be secured.
“As part of a ceasefire, we need to consider establishing a viable verification and monitoring mission to ensure the implementation of any ceasefire agreement by all sides, learning lessons from the past.
“Implementation of a ceasefire agreement however must only be part of a wider effort to improve conditions in Gaza. Without that, we are likely to see further such cycles of violence. This should include the restoration of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza, the opening up of legitimate movement and access and a permanent end to the unacceptable threat of rocket attacks and other forms of violence from Gazan militants against Israel.
The responsibility lies with both sides to make progress toward a permanent peace, enshrined in a two-state solution. No other alternative option exists which guarantees peace and sustainable security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”