Thursday, 7 August 2014

Israel, Hamas must act to end conflict

MPs question S’pore’s position on the crisis and what can be done to alleviate the situation

Weighing in on the Gaza situation, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in Parliament yesterday that both Israel and Hamas are at fault and they must exercise political will and take concrete steps to end the conflict.

Mr Shanmugam was responding to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) on Singapore’s position on the crisis and what it can do to alleviate the situation. “The international community can make statements and try to bring some sense, but ultimately the actors themselves must want peace,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam added: “Let’s hope that the latest 72-hour ceasefire holds and hopefully this will develop into something more.”

Israel, Hamas must act to end conflict: Singapore

BOTH Israel and Hamas are responsible for the escalating conflict in Gaza that has claimed more than a thousand lives so far. But Israel can and should do more to minimise civilian casualties that have shot up in the past month.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam made clear Singapore's position on the conflict yesterday, amid calls by some Members of Parliament and Singaporeans for the Government to take a stand.

He said both Israel and Hamas were in the wrong, and had a part to play in ending the violence.
"While we understand the legitimate right of Israel to self-defence, the rising Palestinian death toll... is tragic and extremely distressing. It raises the question of whether Israel's response to the threat is proportionate. Whether or not this response is justified, we believe that Israel can and should do more to ensure that civilian casualties are minimised," he added.
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Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam’s reply to the Parliamentary Question

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) what is Singapore's position on the latest Gaza conflict that has seen massive Palestinian civilian casualties due to Israeli military action; (b) how does the Ministry plan to address concerns that the Government has not issued a strong enough statement on the violence against civilians; and (c) what are the Ministry's plans to communicate its position to the Muslim and non-Muslim population in Singapore to manage the divisiveness of the issue.
Madam Speaker, the latest conflict in Gaza has harmed the Middle East Peace Process. It has further made worse the already bad situation in the Middle East. As with all conflicts, Singapore and the international community’s primary concern has to be, and is, the security and safety of innocent civilians from all sides.
This latest conflict in Gaza comes after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June, as well as the abduction and killing of a Palestinian teenager in July. The killing of the three Israeli teenagers and the killing of the Palestinian teenager are heinous crimes. MFA has strongly condemned the two terrible crimes, and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. We have also urged the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to do everything possible to reduce tensions, and protect the lives of innocent civilians. Unfortunately, tensions between the two sides have escalated into an open conflict. Hamas has launched rocket attacks, numbered at over 2000 on a regular basis. On 8 July, Israel started “Operation Protective Edge” to destroy the rocket-launching sites, the smuggling tunnels and the munitions stockpiles to prevent attacks on Israel. However, these attacks have also caused severe civilian casualties, which are rising quickly.
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Yesterday, I made a statement on Singapore’s position on what is happening in Gaza

I made the following points:

1. Both Israel and Hamas are in the wrong. Both bear responsibility for what is happening.
i. Hamas had launched over 2,000 rockets at Israel, many of them before Israel responded.
ii. Israel’s response has been disproportionate. Israel can and should do more to ensure that civilian casualties are minimised.
2. Hamas is deliberately using civilians as shields. The Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had gone on Gaza national television and said that the human-shield strategy has proven “very effective”. This is a deliberate strategy. President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas has accused Hamas of using civilians and has said, “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?... I do not like trading in Palestinian blood.” There has not been one rocket from the West Bank, controlled by PNA.
3. Israel needs to show greater commitment to the two-state solution, and should comply with its international law obligations. And Hamas should stop its attacks on Israel, and change its intention to destroy Israel. If indeed it is a pure targeting of innocent civilians, that is completely unacceptable. It is an international crime and we would support prosecution under international criminal laws.
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