Rushi Sunak has urged Israel to “take all possible measures to protect innocent civilians” in Gaza in an apparent shift of tone in the government’s response to the war against Hamas.
In a speech on foreign policy delivered at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall, London, on Monday night, the prime minister stressed:”Israel must be able to defend itself against terror, restore its security and bring the hostages home.”
He then added:”But there are things that Israel must do as part of its response.”Restating the need to conduct a war with the rules of international law, Sunak said Israel “must take all possible measures to protect innocent civilians, including at hospitals, stop extremist violence in the West Bank and allow more aid into Gaza.”
He continued:”Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, described to me the terrible suffering of the Palestinian people. Too many civilians are losing their lives.”
Praising the work of new Home Secretary James Cleverly in his role as foreign secretary, Sunak warned:”These are deeply challenging times for our world.
“Events far beyond our shores echo here at home with implications for our security, our economy, and our very social fabric.
“It falls to us to do everything we can to shape these events.”
Speaking on Tuesday, foreign office minister Andrew Mitchell said: “All parties to a conflict must afford civilians the protection that is their right under international law,”
“That includes respecting the sanctity of hospitals so that doctors can continue to care for the sick and injured.”
Mitchell said it was “impossible to comprehend the pain and loss that innocent Palestinians are enduring in Gaza” since Israel launched its offensive.
“Hospitals… should be places of safety, able to treat patients with compassion,” he added.
“It is distressing to see them unable to do so. Every civilian death is heartbreaking.”
Meanwhile, there was also clear signs of a more critical stance over the way Israel was conducting the war in Gaza, from senior Labour figures as well.
In the Commons on Tuesday, David Lammy claimed Israel “must make changes” to its approach to military action in Gaza, to ensure the protection of civilian lives.
Although, in a clear reference to Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to label Hamas a terror organisation during an interview on Talk TV with Piers Morgan, Lammy told MPs:”I’d like to register my shock that not every member of this house can say Hamas are terrorists.”
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m incredibly concerned about the scenes we’re seeing in Gaza, particularly at the hospitals.
“I understand and respect the need for Israel to bring its hostages home and to defeat Hamas.
“But what is happening to innocent civilians and particularly babies in that hospital is heartbreaking and I would urge Israel to show restraint – to show restraint, allow water, medicine, fuel into Gaza and into those hospitals.”
She called on the UK government and international allies “to put more pressure on [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s government to show the restraint that we’re not seeing at the moment”.
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