update deskIsrael at War

British PM six months after Oct. 7: War must end

"The children of Gaza need a humanitarian pause immediately, leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire. That is the fastest way to get hostages out and aid in and to stop the fighting and loss of life," said Rishi Sunak. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and team meet with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and team on Oct. 19, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and team meet with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and team on Oct. 19, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak marked six months since the Hamas massacre by calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist group and announcing additional aid to Gaza via sea.

Sunak noted that the Oct. 7 attacks were “the most appalling attack in Israel’s history, the worst loss of Jewish life since the Second World War. Six months later, Israeli wounds are still unhealed. Families still mourn and hostages are still held by Hamas. 

“And after six months of war in Gaza, the toll on civilians continues to grow—hunger, desperation, loss of life on an awful scale. We continue to stand by Israel’s right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend their security,” said Sunak.

“But the whole of the U.K. is shocked by the bloodshed, and appalled by the killing of brave British heroes who were bringing food to those in need. This terrible conflict must end. The hostages must be released. The aid—which we have been straining every sinew to deliver by land, air and sea—must be flooded in,” added the premier.

“The children of Gaza need a humanitarian pause immediately, leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire. That is the fastest way to get hostages out and aid in and to stop the fighting and loss of life. For the good of both Israelis and Palestinians—who all deserve to live in peace, dignity and security—that is what we will keep working to achieve,” said Sunak.

His government also announced a package of military and civilian support to set up a maritime aid corridor to Gaza.

Last month, more than 130 British parliamentarians signed a letter urging London to cut off weapons sales to Israel.

Also in March, Sunak joined a meeting between his National Security Adviser Tim Barrow and Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz at 10 Downing Street. His participation provided an additional air of legitimacy to a round of high-level meetings that Gantz took in the United States and the United Kingdom against the wishes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ordered Israel’s American and British embassies not to assist with the visits.

Gantz’s office said that in his meetings with Sunak, and earlier with U.K. Foreign Minister David Cameron, he emphasized the importance of international pressure on Hamas to bring about the release of the hostages.

He also stressed Israel’s obligation to complete “its just and necessary mission of removing the threat of Hamas” and ending the terror group’s rule in the Gaza Strip, according to his office.

Gantz was subjected to an apparent dressing down in his meeting with Cameron, with the British foreign minister describing the conversation to the press as “tough but necessary.”

“I made clear the steps Israel must take to increase aid into Gaza, and the U.K.’s deep concern about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah,” tweeted Cameron.

“Palestinians are facing a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis. In my meeting with Israeli minister Benny Gantz today, we discussed efforts to secure a humanitarian pause to get the hostages safely home and life-saving supplies into Gaza.

“I once again pressed Israel to increase the flow of aid. We are still not seeing improvements on the ground. This must change,” Cameron added.

He added that the United Kingdom would assess “whether Israel is compliant with international law,” based on four demands in the statement relating to the expansion and access to aid. One of the items listed was an “immediate humanitarian pause.”

Cameron sparked controversy in late January when he suggested that the United Kingdom unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state so Palestinian Arabs “can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution.”

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