A British parliamentary delegation headed by Lord David Steel and including Andrew Slaughter MP, (Labour), Karen Buck MP (Labour), and Stephen Williams MP (Lib Dem) was received by deputies from the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City yesterday. They were welcomed by the Palestinian attorney, Dr. Faraj al-Ghoul, who stressed the importance and significance of the visit whose main purpose was to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. They also witnessed the disastrous situation inside the populous strip which has been under siege for more than three years now. This, despite the many international resolutions and promises made to previous delegations who have called for an end to this unjust embargo and the needless and continued suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.
The delegation was briefed by Ghoul on the Legislative Council's mechanism of action in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. From the abduction and imprisonment of more than 50 deputies by the Occupation and the subversion of democracy, Israel's aim has been to paralyze the Council. Nevertheless, it has been able to challenge the debilitating circumstances it faces and work to the fullest and has given confidence to the Palestinian government.
Khalil al-Hayya, another deputy, took questions and inquiries from the parliamentarians on Palestinian reconciliation efforts and the major obstacles that it faces as well as the nature of efforts toward a prisoner exchange deal with the Occupation and the reasons they have stalled. It was explained that Hamas actively seeks reconciliation in order to bring the Palestinian people together, however it was emphasised that it faces numerous obstacles as a result of external intervention and pressures being placed on Fatah. It was also asserted that the failure of negotiations toward a prisoner exchange deal after nearly three years was entirely borne by Israel. It was indicated that despite Hamas having agreed upon most items of the deal, Israel continues to drag its feet and refuses to implement what has been previously agreed.
The delegation was called upon to push for the lifting of the unjust siege and the achievement of justice. The importance of a balanced British policy towards Palestine was also stressed to constitute the necessity of prosecuting Israeli war criminals. Shocked by the tragedies and suffering endured by the people of the Gaza Strip and rejecting the blockade imposed on them, the delegation confirmed their intention to take up, within parliament, any attempt by the British government to make constitutional amendments in order to protect Zionist criminals from prosecution and punishment before British courts.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad