It would be ‘insane’ to consider putting UK soldiers in Gaza, say Tory MPs

Deploying British troops on the ground to assist Gaza aid efforts would be “completely insane” and should be ruled out, senior Conservative MPs have warned.

Defence minister Leo Docherty declined to comment on reports that the UK Government is considering deploying troops to land humanitarian supplies from a temporary pier currently being built by the United States military.

This could involve driving trucks carrying aid from landing vessels via a causeway to the shore, where it would be deposited and picked up by aid agencies.

But Mr Docherty faced strong warnings from his own side and opposition MPs against such a move, amid fears for the safety of UK personnel, and calls for neighbouring Arab states to lead the distribution of supplies.

The minister, responding to an urgent question from Labour, told the Commons: “We are not going to comment on the speculation that there might be a ground role for UK forces; it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on speculation and we’re very clear as to the current remit.”

But Conservative, former cabinet minister, Robert Jenrick said: “Hamas is a terrorist organisation that hates the United Kingdom and everything we stand for.

“It would therefore be deeply unwise for the UK to commit British servicemen and women whether on the ground or on the pier in Gaza. It’s for precisely that reason that the White House has categorically ruled this out.

“Will the minister take the opportunity to do the same and reassure our constituents that we don’t make an inadvertent mistake and British troops continue what they should be doing, which is facilitating the complete eradication of Hamas?”

Infected Blood inquiry
Sir Jeremy Quin sought assurances that the UK would only contemplate UK boots on the pier with protection in place (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Docherty replied: “I agree entirely with his analysis and his comments about Hamas. Other than that, of course, I won’t comment on speculation in the media.”

Conservative MP Sir Julian Lewis, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, earlier said: “One of the main strategic aims of Iran, Russia’s ally, in supporting what Hamas did in October last year was to suck Western powers into the Middle Eastern theatre – thus diverting them from Russia’s existential conflict with Ukraine.

“May I urge the minister not to comment on the suggestion that we might have British boots on the ground in the Gaza Strip, but to take the message back to the Secretary of State (Grant Shapps) that this would be a completely insane idea.

“It would be far better to have moderate, Arab, neighbouring states deal with any distribution of aid which we have helped facilitate as a result of the viable RAF and sea power that we have exercised.”

Mr Docherty said: “(Sir Julian) is right, the answers to the humanitarian and political challenges in the region lie in the region itself; I entirely agree with his analysis.

“He made a relevant and good point about the requirement for us to maintain focus on Ukraine, our efforts to support our Ukrainian friends and defend their sovereignty.”

Conservative MP Sir Jeremy Quin, who chairs the Defence Committee, sought assurances that the UK would “only contemplate UK boots on the pier with appropriate force protection in place”.

For the SNP, Dave Doogan said getting aid into Gaza to alleviate the “unspeakable torment” of the Palestinians “must be a good thing”, adding: “The professionalism and capability of UK troops is beyond question.

“But are ministers seriously suggesting that the best that Euro-Atlantic allies can muster is British troops? Have ministers forgotten about how British forces operated in Palestine in the Arab rebellion of 1936 because the Palestinians haven’t.”

Mr Doogan said any risk calculation must command “more robust analysis, rigour and humanitarian ambition”.

Conservative MP Bob Stewart (Beckenham), a former soldier, said: “Bearing in mind my experience in Northern Ireland, seven tours, I’m slightly worried just in case members of our armed forces open fire – and they have done – in the Middle East, that at some future date a foreign country or indeed an international court will put them before such court and charge them.

“I’m hoping the minister will declare that such a thing will never happen.”

Mr Docherty said: “Our forces in the region operate with the full force of the law behind them on the basis of collective self-defence.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the “Israeli bombardment” is the “biggest problem” when trying to get aid into Gaza, and sought assurances that the Government will “not be deploying British troops anywhere on the ground in Gaza or the West Bank or any other part of the region”.

Labour MP Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) said Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, should be “held to account for his horrific crimes”.

Israel has been the subject of international criticism for failing to let enough aid across its land borders, though it has promised to open more crossings, including its port in Ashdod to process aid shipments bound for Gaza.

The Israel-Hamas war was triggered by Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw another 250 being taken hostage.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 34,300 people, according to the local health ministry, and swathes of the population are on the brink of starvation.