I’ve received a large number of representations demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. Or, to be more precise, demanding that the UK Government join international calls for a ceasefire.
I do not see that there is any possibility of a ceasefire in the foreseeable future, so I can’t see the point in calling for one.
What I do believe is a possibility, and for which we must work strenuously is a ‘pause’ for the purpose of delivering humanitarian aid to civilians. Even this will be difficult because Israel is acutely aware that Hamas has a history of appropriating humanitarian aid for its own purposes. Screening the aid and ensuring that it is not stolen will be a complex operation.
Equally, using civilians as a ‘human shield’ is central to the standard operating procedure of Hamas.
I do not believe that either side sees a ceasefire as being in their interests.
The ferocity and ‘in your face’ barbarity of the Hamas attack on Israeli settlements was clearly designed to provoke an overwhelming response from Israel. Hamas has been building its network of underground tunnels and arsenal for years. It has chosen its moment to draw Israel into a very costly urban warfare for which Hamas is well prepared. It is not in the interests of Hamas to hold a ceasefire now, when it is on the brink of achieving the very objective which its attack was designed to provoke.
Israel, on the other hand, has been attacked by an organisation whose only purpose is to completely obliterate it and replace it with an Islamic state. There is no settlement that can be negotiated with such an adversary. One side can only prevail by annihilating the other.
To survive this existential threat Israel must take this opportunity to destroy Hamas, or face prolonging the bloodshed of further attacks by Hamas in the future. I see no reason why Israel would accommodate a ceasefire now.
We have to confine ourselves to what is possible, namely pauses in which relief can be delivered and as many lives saved as possible.
But the nightly vision of Hell will continue to unfold on out TV screens.