Members of the Bradford on Avon Friends of Palestine have condemned the violence in Israel and Gaza that has already claimed more than 1,000 lives. 

The condemnation follows the outbreak of war following an attack by the Hamas militant group in Gaza on Saturday that took Israel by surprise.

But the BoAFOP says they will still go ahead with two events on Wednesday and Thursday, October 18 and 19 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the group’s formation.

More than 1,100 people have died in Israel and Gaza following the attack during a major Jewish holiday that left at least 700 people dead and thousands injured.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately declared war against Hamas after the militant group also captured more than 100 hostages.

Hamas has always espoused violence to liberate occupied Palestinian territories and has called for the annihilation of Israel.

BoAFOP founder member Judith Hammond, who is now one of the group’s committee members, condemned the violence in Gaza as “absolutely abominable” but said she understood the Palestinian frustrations.

“All violence is absolutely abominable but there has been no discussion between Israel and the Palestine Authority for at least 20 years and the whole situation has been allowed to fester.

"The committee abhor the Hamas attack on innocent Israelis last weekend and have great sympathy for the relatives of all the Israelis that were killed.

"However, we were surprised that Israel was caught sleeping and was totally unprepared for the assault by Hamas."

She said it was "like a powder keg exploding", especially with such a young population having rarely experienced peace in their lives.

They were in a 'virtual prison' with two million people living under siege for over a decade in an area no bigger than the Isle of Wight.

She said thousands of Gazans have been killed in the four big Israeli military attacks on them since 2008. The Gazans have restricted fishing rights and are unable to visit relatives in the West Bank.

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The BOAFOP committee has organised two events to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its formation with around 60 people attending the first at Great Chalfield Manor on Wednesday, October 18.

The following day, more than 90 people are expected to attend a second event at St Margaret’s Hall in Bradford on Avon where the guest speaker will be Dr Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Ambassador to the UK.

"Our two events will still go ahead and are fully booked but I wish to emphasise that we are not fundraising for Gaza."

The BOAFOP has had an official friendship link with the town of Tubas in the Israeli West Bank since March 2020. Tubas is known as the bread basket of Palestine.

The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since it was captured from Jordan in 1967 during the Six Day War.

Mrs Hammond added: "Our town has had the official friendship link with  Tubas, which is on the opposite side of the West Bank far away from Gaza in the North East, for three years, and has nothing to do with Hamas.

"The people are peace-loving in spite of the difficulties they have to face, especially when travelling.

“At least five people will be visiting from Tubas during our celebrations:  their mayor, Husam, farmer Wajih, and Jalal, a retired head teacher with whom we liaise, as well as two young social workers, Sana'a and Nazeem."