our MP is currently in the middle east visiting the Gaza Strip, following the Israeli bombardment that led to over 1,000 deaths.
Here is an extract of his online diary
Gaza City - 05:38 pm, Monday 16th February 2009
An incredibly hectic and harrowing day: we began with a visit to a kindergarten partly collapsed when the police station next door was bombed. But while this might be seen as “collateral damage”, what we saw next utterly horrified us – whole villages such as Beit Haynoum and Abn Rabo, which had been flattened first by F16s then bulldozed with dynamite.
We visited the Al-Qudz hospital, a major which was bombed it seems with white phosphorous shells and had to be evacuated (including the intensive care unit).
The main business district in Gaza has been annihilated: over 650 major businesses over the Gaza strip have been destroyed by the Israeli action. Finally, we visited the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), whose own warehouses of food and medicine were bombed by the Israelis.
Gaza City - 10:17 pm, Sunday 15th February, 2009
While it was still daylight, our hosts (the Welfare Association) took us to see some of the devastation in Gaza city and to hear eyewitness accounts from women and children caught in the fighting. We visited the Quattan children’s centre, which remains a fantastic £7m resource centre for all of the children of Northern Gaza.
It opened two years ago – five years late, because of the Israeli blockade. There we heard from a member of the al-Saloumi family, 35 members of which were killed in one Israeli attack. We also visited the Gaza Music School, a newly opened facility for children aged 7-12 years that was totally destroyed by bombing on the first day of the Israeli aggression.
Erez - 1:42 pm, Sunday 15th February, 2009
After 6 hours at the checkpoint, we have finally been allowed through and have been delivered to our hotel in Gaza City by the UN. We have driven past a number of bomb sites, including the Police HQ where an attack on the first day of the incursion during a parade by new police cadets killed over 100 people.
We are staying by the beach - this might sound pleasant, but in Gaza, this means that the locals were subjected to bombardment by sea as well as by tanks on the land border. This continued for 20 days. Our hosts are the Welfare Association - a humanitarian relief agency, run by expat Palestinians. We are shortly to be taken to see some of their rescue and rehabilitation projects. I'll let you know what we see....
Erez - 11:58 am, Sunday 15th February, 2009
It is noon. We have been waiting about three and a half hours to enter Gaza. Erez is supposed to be the main crossing point for people and, situated at the north-east corner of the Strip, is the entry point closest to the West Bank. There is an airport terminal sized processing centre, but it is completely deserted.
The Israeli officer on duty at the border post said our papers were still being processed (after a week) and we have retired to a coffee bar about a mile away. We met Aidan O’Leary the deputy head of UNWRA (United Nations Welfare and Relief Agency) who told us it could be along wait.
Saturday 14 February – Ashkelon
It is 6pm Jerusalem time and we are just arrived at the Dan Gardens Hotel in Ashkelon. I left Shepherds Bush at 4.30am this morning but, apart from a short period of detention for our CAABU (Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding) rep at Ben Gurion Airport, a hassle-free journey.
Ashkelon feels like an out-of-season holiday resort (which is what it is). It is one of the towns that came within range of missiles fired from inside Gaza recently. But other than some faded warning posters on a bus shelter, there is no sign of anything out of the ordinary.
A curious place to spend Valentine’s Day.