Israel's invasion of Gaza likely 'tomorrow or in next few days', ex-Foreign Secretary tells LBC

16 October 2023, 19:38 | Updated: 17 October 2023, 09:44

Malcolm Rifkind told Andrew Marr that Israel could not be expected not to send in troops to Gaza
Sir Malcolm Rifkind told Andrew Marr that Israel could not be expected not to send in troops to Gaza. Picture: LBC/Getty

By Kit Heren

Israel is likely to invade Gaza on Tuesday or in the next few days, former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has said.

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The country's army has been poised to move into Gaza in an effort to destroy Hamas for days, following the group's killing of over 1,000 Israeli citizens.

Reports have emerged in recent days that foreign powers, led by the US, have been in talks with Israel about the manner of its planned invasion.

Sir Malcolm who was Foreign Secretary under John Major, said he would be "very surprised" if other countries expected Israel not to send its troops into Gaza.

"The question is whether that's going to be tomorrow or whether it might be delayed a few days," he told LBC's Andrew Marr.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind on Israel and Palestine

"And I think if there is a delay it will be because there may be some possibility - and it's only a possibility - of negotiations on two fronts."

Those are the potential release of the 199 hostages taken by Hamas, and efforts to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza via the crossing from Egypt, on its southern border, Sir Malcolm said.

He added that Israel's military objective is "not to eradicate Hamas as an organisation, but to to eradicate Hamas' military potential."

Sir Malcolm Rifkind insists that 'Israel did the right thing.'

Sir Malcolm said: "Hamas have chosen to transform themselves from simply being a militia with military capability into effectively a new equivalent of ISIS, a terrorist organisation prepared to massacre women and children simply for the sake of doing so as part of their political tactics.

"So I don't see that as something which any really government or any civilised government could be expected to stand by".

Read more: Hero Brit, 32, killed fighting Hamas terrorists as he saved Israeli civilians from massacre

Rishi Sunak branded the massacre a "pogrom".
Rishi Sunak branded the massacre a "pogrom". Picture: Alamy

It comes after Rishi Sunak told MPs that six British people had been killed, with a further ten missing and feared dead in the wake of Hamas's massacre in Israel.

The Prime Minister condemned the attack as a "pogrom". He confirmed the death toll in a speech to MPs on Monday, as he said the brutal nature of the attacks meant it was difficult to identify those killed.

"With a heavy heart, I can inform the house that at least six British citizens were killed," he said, acknowledging that relatives of the missing were in the public gallery at Parliament.

"A further 10 are missing, some of whom are feared to be among the dead. We are working with Israel to establish the facts as quickly as possible, and we are supporting the families who are suffering unimaginable pain."

Five British victims have been named since the attack.

The heartbroken mother of British man Jake Marlowe confirmed her son died after the assault.

Nathanel Young, 20, a serving member of the Israeli military, was killed in the attack.

Bernard Cowan, who grew up in Glasgow, was killed, while the sister of photographer Dan Darlington said he was murdered in southern Israel.

Benjamin Trakeniski, 32, who was part of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), helped evacuate people from Kibbutz Be'eri, one of the worst hit communities near the Gaza Strip as gunmen rampaged through.

He was killed during the fighting after driving down from his base with comrades.

Read more: Anti-Semitic hate soars in London as police vow to stop 'celebrations of terrorism or death'

Benjamin Trakeniski, a British-Israeli, was killed trying to help people flee a kibbutz during Hamas's attack
Benjamin Trakeniski, a British-Israeli, was killed trying to help people flee a kibbutz during Hamas's attack. Picture: Social media

More than 1,400 people were killed in the terrorists' rampage while almost 200 were taken hostage.

"The elderly, men, women, children, babes in arms, murdered, mutilated, burned alive. We should call it by its name - it was a pogrom," Sunak said.

He said that eight flights had taken 500 Brits safely out of Israel as the government laid on planes for people trying to flee the violence.

Jake Marlowe was killed after the festival he was working as security at came under attack
Jake Marlowe was killed after the festival he was working as security at came under attack. Picture: Social media

The clashes and deaths are expected to only worsen as Hamas fires rockets and the IDF prepares a ground invasion of the Gaza strip, having told Palestinians in the north of the area to move towards Egypt as it launches its mission to destroy Hamas.

There are hopes Egypt will keep open the Rafa crossing, in the south, to provide a lifeline to innocent Palestinians trapped in the zone.

There are some 2.3 million people living on the narrow strip, which is fenced off by an Israeli security barrier - breached by Hamas on October 7 - and Egypt's border.

"This atrocity was an existential strike at the very idea of Israel as a safe homeland for the Jewish people," Sunak said.

Sunak said the government stands by Britain's Jews and Muslims
Sunak said the government stands by Britain's Jews and Muslims. Picture: Alamy

The PM tried to reassure British Jews who have suffered a massive rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

The number of offences in the two weeks from September 30 jumped by 650% compared to the same period last year.

Read more: Gaza 'running out of life': UN warns food and water 'in scarce supply' as Israel vows 'fateful' hour looms for Hamas

"I understand why it has shaken you to your core, and I am sickened that antisemitic incidents have increased since the attack. We are doing everything we can to protect you," Sunak said.

But he also said this was "a moment of great anguish for British Muslim communities who are also appalled by Hamas's actions but fearful of the response", and he told the Commons that fears about Israel's actions in Gaza must be listened to.

"Hamas is using innocent Palestinian people as human shields," he said, adding: "We mourn the loss of every innocent life, civilians of every faith, every nationality who have been killed.

"And so, let's say it plainly, we stand with British Muslim communities too."