Sunak pledges government will ‘do everything we can’ to help evacuate 200 Brits trapped in Gaza

27 October 2023, 08:44

Rishi Sunak said around 200 Britons in Gaza had been in contact with the Foreign Office to ask for help.
Rishi Sunak said around 200 Britons in Gaza had been in contact with the Foreign Office to ask for help. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

The UK has sent Border Force officials to Egypt in the hope of evacuating Brits trapped in Gaza before Israel’s expected ground invasion.

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Around 200 British citizens in Gaza had been in touch with the Foreign Office to ask for help, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Thursday.

Mr Sunak said he had highlighted the importance of helping Britons to leave Gaza during talks with Israeli and Egyptian leaders after Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel on October 7.

Mr Sunak said the Government would do “everything we can to get our nationals out” as they remain “very keen” to help evacuate Brits trapped in Gaza.

He has also added that he had asked Israel to avoid airstrikes on the border region if the crossing is opened.

But he pointed to the complexity of the Rafah border crossing, which is only opened to allow limited humanitarian aid into Gaza. It is also the only way in and out of Gaza that is not controlled by Israel.

“When the moment arises, we can take it quickly”, Mr Sunak said, as Border Force officials have been "prepositioned" in Egypt to help if an opportunity occurs.

Mr Sunak called for “specific pauses” in the conflict, which he noted is different from a ceasefire, to allow for the evacuations to happen.

Read more: British-Israeli soldier threw back seven Hamas grenades defending festival-goers, before one blew up in his hand

Read more: Israeli tanks roll into Gaza overnight in 'targeted raid', after Benjamin Netanyahu vows all Hamas fighters are 'doomed'

Mr Sunak has said the government would do everything it can to get trapped Brits out of Gaza.
Mr Sunak has said the government would do everything it can to get trapped Brits out of Gaza. Picture: Alamy

“Alongside [supplying] aid, we also want to try and get our British nationals out of Gaza, for the hostages to be released,” Mr Sunak added on Thursday.

“We recognise that for all of that to happen, there needs to be a safer environment, which of course necessitates specific pauses, which are distinct from a ceasefire.

“And that is why we supported the resolution at the United Nations yesterday which, among many other things, mentioned that.”

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the government has been discussing plans to evacuate Brits from the region since the start of the conflict.

She told Nick the situation on the ground was "clearly very difficult" but confirmed the government had sent Border Force officers to Egypt.

Ms Keegan said the UK had sent a plane load of aid to Egypt which was sitting on the border but she said it was vital to ensure the aid got to the right place.

Minister explains government plans to get Brits out of Gaza

It comes after Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden revealed on Thursday the Government was assembling plans to help extract British citizens from Gaza.

“We stand ready to evacuate British citizens once they have crossed to the other side of the border from Gaza as soon as it is safe to do so,” Mr Dowden said.

It follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin's Netanyahu promise to 'do away' with Hamas on Wednesday.
It follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin's Netanyahu promise to 'do away' with Hamas on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy

The United States and the United Kingdom have both publicly supported Israel's right to defend itself, rejecting pleas to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have both rejected calls for a ceasefire in Israel - although the Labour party has seen in-fighting on the subject after several councillors quit over comments made by Sir Keir.

It comes after Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Wednesday that Israel is preparing for a ground offensive in Gaza.

The Israeli prime minister vowed to "do away with Hamas by destroying its military and governmental capabilities and to do everything within our power to return our hostages back home".

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