Central Ayrshire MP Dr Philippa Whitford has spoken of her "heartbreak" over the shocking violence in Gaza and Israel.

The MP and former breast cancer specialist has a long connection with the Middle East, having worked in Gaza as a medical volunteer since the 1990s.

At the weekend, militant Palestinian group Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel, leaving up to 1,000 dead so far. They also seized women and children as hostages who are now being held in Gaza.

Israel responded with missile attacks on the area, leaving many more dead, as well as cutting off power and supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Dr Whitford said: "I am absolutely heartbroken at what is happening in southern Israel and Gaza as, having worked in Gaza as a medical volunteer during the initial peace process in 1991, any chance of peace now seems even further away.

“Apart from desperation, due to the deteriorating outlook for Palestinians, I do not understand Hamas‘ rationale for their appalling attack on Israeli civilians or what they possibly hope to achieve by taking innocent women and children as hostages.

Ayr Advertiser: Dr Philippa Whitford MPDr Philippa Whitford MP (Image: Newsquest)

"About two million people are blockaded into the Gaza Strip - a tiny coastal area only 25 miles by five miles - the equivalent of Ardrossan to Ayr and inland to Tarbolton.

"While I understand Israel’s need to respond,  the indiscriminate bombing of such an overcrowded space as Gaza will lead to appalling Palestinian civilian casualties – innocent men, women and children who have no control over Hamas’ actions.

"The blockade already makes it difficult to get aid and medical supplies into Gaza so dealing with the injured will become increasingly challenging.

"In 2016, I had the opportunity to return to Gaza with Medical Aid for Palestinians and establish a 'Medical Bridge' project between Scottish specialists and clinicians in Palestine to improve Breast Cancer Care for women in Gaza and the West Bank.

"There was due to be another training team visit to Gaza next month, but it is now unlikely that will go ahead.

The SNP MP, who is due to step down at the next General Election, added: "When I was last there, before the pandemic, the conditions in Gaza were awful, with only a few hours of electricity per day, undrinkable water and shortages of virtually everything, particularly hope - which was in very short supply.

"I don't have an easy solution but it is clear that the way forward to a just peace, for both Israelis and Palestinians, does not lie through this endless cycle of persecution, violence and retribution."