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On 7 October 2023, the Palestinian group Hamas, officially designated a terrorist group by many countries including Israel, the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, commenced an armed assault against Israel. It launched several thousand rockets into Israel and conducted attacks in border areas, killing around 1,200 civilians, and taking 253 hostages, as part of what it called “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”.

In response to the assault, in October Israel conducted air strikes against Hamas in Gaza and launched a ground attack to “destroy Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and to bring the hostages home”. Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel.

This briefing provides information on the UK response to the conflict, including activity at the UN and statements of the Government and opposition parties.

The Library research briefing, 2023/24 Israel-Hamas conflict: US, UN, EU and regional response provides information on the international response to the conflict, including actions at the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, and violence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea.

Ongoing hostilities and casualties

Fighting is currently centred in southern Gaza and the Rafah crossing into Egypt, where in May Israel announced it would conduct “limited” operations against Hamas. It has ordered the evacuation of more than 100,000 Palestinians from the eastern Rafah.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) estimates 75% of the population of Gaza are displaced.

Citing Israeli authorities and the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says that since 7 October, more than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals have been reported killed and 5,432 injured. At least 35,091 Palestinians have been reported killed and about 78,827 injured across Gaza and Israel (as of 13 May 2024).

There are also ongoing hostilities between Israel and Iran-aligned Hezbollah (also a proscribed terrorist group in the UK) in Lebanon and northern Israel. Other Iran-supported groups such as the Houthis in Yemen and Shia militias in Iraq and Syria have been launching attacks on civilian shipping and against US and Israeli targets. On 13 April, Iran also launched its first direct attack on Israel, which it said was in retaliation for an attack on its consulate in Syria, launching 330 drones and missiles (of which 99% were intercepted).

Pauses in fighting and humanitarian access 

On 9 November, the United States said Israel would begin four to five hour pauses in its military operations in Gaza. The Israeli Defence Forces has said these are “tactical, local pauses” for the delivery of aid and not a ceasefire.

From 24 November to 1 December, a pause took place to enable the release of hostages. Before the pause began, Israel said it would last no longer than 10 days and fighting would then resume. The pause enabled the release of 110 hostages from Gaza and 240 Palestinian prisoners from Israel.

UN resolution 2728, passed in March 2024, which called for an immediate ceasefire and release of hostages during Ramadan, and which the UK supported, has not been implemented. Israel criticized the resolution for failing to condemn Hamas and argued it gave Hamas “hope that international pressure will force a ceasefire without the release of our hostages”. The Palestinian Authority called for an immediate ceasefire.

The number of crossings for trucks carrying aid into Gaza have increased since October, though the number of trucks is below the target of 500 a day. The World Food Programme has warned of an “imminent” famine across Gaza and in May that a “full blown famine” is occurring in the north. The G7, including the UK, has called for an increase in aid. Israel has committed to increase the number of aid trucks and crossings but says Hamas has been involved in the diversion and disruption of aid. The UK has been supporting the construction of a temporary pier off Gaza by the US to deliver aid.

Negotiations on a pause, mediated by Egypt and Qatar, continue.

UK Government and Parliament response

Government advice for British nationals

Military, diplomatic and humanitarian actions   

Government and opposition statements on the conflict

Statements on a ceasefire

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