Israel has made 'big mistakes' in Gaza, says Deputy PM as he insists UK is 'holding them to a very high standard'

7 April 2024, 13:28

Oliver Dowden on Israel-Gaza, conscription and spear-phishing in Parliament

By Emma Soteriou

Israel has made 'big mistakes' during the conflict in Gaza, Deputy PM Oliver Dowden has said.

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Mr Dowden insisted Israel is being held to "very high standards", adding that Rishi Sunak and David Cameron had shared their concerns with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking on the six-month anniversary of the October 7 attacks, Mr Dowden added that the government's focus is currently on getting aid to people in Gaza.

"It is a very sad day remembering those horrific attacks on Israel. People in Israel are still in a state of trauma and I know people in the Jewish community and the wider world still feel the reverberations of it," he told LBC's Matthew Wright.

"One of the big challenges is making sure that we get aid to the suffering people in Gaza who have suffered under Hamas and are now suffering in this conflict."

He went on to say: "We are continuing to push Israel in relation to concerns we have about their very legitimate war in order to remove the threat of Hamas but also in terms of getting aid in and also the so-called de-conflicting of civilian targets such as aid workers."

"Israel is fighting an incredibly difficult war against an enemy that hides itself among the civilian population…it’s a very difficult war to conduct," Mr Dowden said.

"Israel, of course, has not been perfect and we’ve raised those concerns – including from the Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister – to Prime Minister Netanyahu but we should be clear we are holding Israel to the very high standards that we would expect of ourselves and our allies."

It comes after Mr Sunak vowed to stand by Israel in a message to mark the anniversary of Hamas' brutal attack.

Read more: 'It feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago': Brother of woman killed in October 7 attacks says shock 'never leaves'

Read more: Rishi Sunak vows to stand by Israel as he calls for end to bloodshed six months on from October 7 Hamas attacks

London, UK. 24th Mar, 2023. London UK 24th March Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister, meets with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel in Downing Street, London Credit: Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News
London, UK. 24th Mar, 2023. London UK 24th March Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister, meets with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel in Downing Street, London Credit: Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News. Picture: Alamy

The Prime Minister said: "Today marks six months since the terrorist outrage of October 7 - 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."

Mr Sunak added: "We continue to stand by Israel's right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend their security.

"But the whole of the UK is shocked by the bloodshed, and appalled by the killing of brave British heroes who were bringing food to those in need."

Read More: Royal Navy ship to be sent to Gaza to help aid to get into war-torn strip

Undated handout photo issued by World Central Kitchen of Briton James Kirby, one of the World Central Kitchen seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Issue date: Wednesday April 3, 2024.
John Chapman, 57, James "Jim" Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were the three Britons who died in air strikes carried out by the IDF on their aid convoy on April 1. Picture: Alamy
Undated handout photo issued by World Central Kitchen of Briton James 'Jim' Henderson, one of the World Central Kitchen seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Issue date: Wednesday April 3, 2024.
John Chapman, 57, James "Jim" Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were the three Britons who died in air strikes carried out by the IDF on their aid convoy on April 1. Picture: Alamy
Undated handout photo issued by World Central Kitchen of Briton John Chapman, one of the World Central Kitchen seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Issue date: Wednesday April 3, 2024.
John Chapman, 57, James "Jim" Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were the three Britons who died in air strikes carried out by the IDF on their aid convoy on April 1. Picture: Alamy

John Chapman, 57, James "Jim" Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were the three Britons who died in air strikes carried out by the IDF on their aid convoy on April 1.

The Prime Minister highlighted the growing toll on Palestinian civilians, and said the UK had been "straining every sinew" to get aid into Gaza, while emphasising the need for Hamas to release its captives.

He called for an immediate humanitarian pause in the fighting, "leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire".

David Lammy MP, Labour's shadow secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, similarly called for Israeli hostages to be returned home, and condemned the "intolerable death and destruction" of the IDF's military campaign.

But in contrast to the Prime Minister, he called for "an immediate ceasefire".

Munich, Germany. 18th Feb, 2024. David Lammy, British politician, photographed on the last day of the 60th Munich Security Conference (MSC) at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof. Credit: Tobias Hase/dpa/Alamy Live News
David Lammy MP, Labour's shadow secretary of state for foreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, similarly called for Israeli hostages to be returned home, and condemned the "intolerable death and destruction" of the IDF's military campaign. Picture: Alamy

In recent weeks, the government has come under pressure to reveal whether it has received legal advice about continuing arms sales to Israel.

Mr Lammy said: "The UK Government must also unequivocally commit to complying with international law in this conflict, including following the licensing criteria governing arms sales, as well as calling on Israel to implement the provisional measures in the ICJ's binding January ruling in full."

He also insisted there was a need to "look forward to how we can build a just and lasting peace out of the horrors of this war".

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