Armistice Day on 11th November is our annual memorial for those members of our armed forces who gave their lives in the service of this country, in the two world wars and in all conflicts since 1945. For me this anniversary and Remembrance Sunday have a particular significance given the role played by the Folkestone and Hythe district in the world wars, not least in supporting the millions of movements of soldiers to and from the western front from Folkestone harbour from 1915 to 1918. I am proud of the work of our community in creating the Step Short arch on The Leas in Folkestone to commemorate their journeys.
This year, whilst we remember past conflicts our attention is drawn to the wars that are affecting the world today, in particular in Ukraine and Gaza. We have stood alongside the people of Ukraine as they have bravely resisted the war of aggression waged on them by Russia. They did not want this conflict and it was launched on them with no warning or pretext by their aggressive neighbour. Nevertheless, their brave resistance has stopped President Putin from seizing control of their country. However, Russia still illegally occupies approximately twenty percent of their national territory. We are right to support them in their ongoing struggle for freedom.
On 7 October this year, Hamas invaded Israel murdering thousands of innocent people, including children and the elderly. Their intention is the destruction of the Israeli state and the death of her people. Those who support them, and take to the streets calling for a new Palestinian state to replace Israel, are effectively supporting the destruction of a democratic sovereign nation. If that is the true aim of Hamas and those who march with it, then it is hard to know how Israel can come to a peaceful accommodation with them. Given the brutal attack suffered by the people of Israel it is understandable that their government is determined to remove the risk that the leadership of Hamas presents.
The military objective of Israel in its invasion of Gaza is to remove the threat from Hamas and it would appear that this will require establishing control over Gaza City. Hamas has embedded itself there, including placing command centres in public infrastructure like hospitals. It has done this deliberately, knowing that it will maximise the loss of civilian life in Gaza when these military installations are attacked by the Israeli forces.
We are all disturbed by the great loss of life that has come as a result of this conflict. There need to be pauses in the fighting in order to allow urgent humanitarian relief to support the people of Gaza. However a wider ceasefire would simply provide relief to Hamas and allow them to regroup. This will only support their efforts to fight the war against Israel that they want and started. Such a ceasefire will only prolong the conflict and lead to a greater loss of life.
Published: Friday 10th November 2023