Shropshire Star

Shapps: No circumstances for UK troops on ground in Middle East conflict

MPs pressed the Defence Secretary on the matter during an urgent question in the Commons.

Grant Shapps

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said he can see “no circumstances” under which British troops would be on the ground in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank.

MPs pressed Mr Shapps over whether or not there will be an extension of UK military involvement after he confirmed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will conduct unarmed surveillance flights over the eastern Mediterranean, including operating in airspace over Israel and Gaza.

Mr Shapps said this is part of his pledge to “move heaven and earth” to rescue hostages held by Hamas following the militant group’s deadly attack on Israel on October 7.

But he ruled out British troop involvement, including for peacekeeping operations.

Speaking in the Commons, Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought assurances that there will be “no deployment of British troops on the ground in Gaza, Israel or the West Bank without the approval of this House”.

Mr Shapps replied: “Well there simply is not going to be a deployment so it won’t even require this House.”

Alliance MP Stephen Farry (North Down) said the presence of the United Nations (UN) or a UN-authorised peacekeeping presence on the ground could help sustain a ceasefire, adding it may well have to be led by Arab states.

He added: “Does the Secretary of State foresee any situation in which the MoD could be providing back-up support to such a presence and has any planning been done for such a scenario?”

Mr Shapps replied: “There’s a huge amount of international work going into thinking about what happens afterwards and how that is structured.

“It is rather too soon, I’m afraid, to predict exactly how that would look but I don’t think he’s too far off the mark to think this needs to be a truly global response or will need to involve Arab partners and we will do whatever we can to help and support.

“But I see no circumstances under which British troops were on the ground.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked if Britain would be involved in the “military actions that Israel are taking, either physically or by providing information to support their military activities”.

Mr Shapps said the “simple answer” to the question was “no”.

Conservative MP James Sunderland (Bracknell) earlier said: “In as much as the UK has a responsibility to Israel, we also have a responsibility to the people of Gaza.

“Can he therefore reassure me that HM forces will not become involved in any military action unless in direct support of British interests or British nationals?”

Mr Shapps replied: “Yes.”

SNP MP Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) asked about the current role for RAF bases in Cyprus and whether any military materials are being moved through it.

Mr Shapps replied: “They are being used, for example, to ensure that we can provide support to our military laydown in the area.

“To answer her specific question I can assure her we have provided no offensive military weapons to Israel during this conflict.

“In fact our exports to Israel on military grounds are actually quite low, I think a figure of something like £48 million last year which is not a very significant amount of money, and during the conflict we would only be providing defensive materials or materials that might help with the recovery of hostages.”

Labour MP Kim Johnson (Liverpool Riverside) raised concerns over an “increase in settler violence in the West Bank”.

Mr Shapps, who said he is visiting the Middle East this week, replied: “I certainly won’t be pulling my punches when I speak to my Israeli counterparts.

“The violence in the West Bank is unacceptable and it must be controlled – stopped, in fact.”

Elsewhere in the Commons session, Mr Shapps said he is looking at new ways of getting aid into Gaza.

Replying to shadow defence secretary John Healey’s calls for more aid, he said: “This country has provided now £60 million worth of additional aid made available for Palestinians. There have been four flights that have taken off so far.

“He … will realise that the problem is not just providing the aid, it is getting it into Gaza and the Rafah crossing presents a very considerable barrier to that for all sorts of security reasons, so I am actively looking at different routes and he will understand that is one of the reasons why I am going to the region this week.”

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