Rishi Sunak steps up call for a 'sustainable ceasefire' in Middle East and 'too many civilian lives have been lost'

18 December 2023, 14:23

Rishi Sunak has called for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’. (Right) Palestinians salvage belongings after an Israeli strike
Rishi Sunak has called for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’. (Right) Palestinians salvage belongings after an Israeli strike. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Rishi Sunak said too many innocent lives had been lost in the Israel-Hamas war as he called for a "sustainable ceasefire."

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The Prime Minister stepped up the UK Government's call for a "sustainable ceasefire", with increased access for much-needed humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip.

"Israel obviously has a right to defend itself against what was an appalling terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas, but it must do that in accordance with humanitarian law," the Prime Minister said.

"It's clear that too many civilian lives have been lost and nobody wants to see this conflict go on a day longer than it has to.

"It's clear that too many civilian lives have been lost and nobody wants to see this conflict go on a day longer than it has to," said Mr Sunak
"It's clear that too many civilian lives have been lost and nobody wants to see this conflict go on a day longer than it has to," said Mr Sunak. Picture: Alamy

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"And that's why we've been consistent - and I made this point in Parliament last week - in calling for a sustainable ceasefire, whereby hostages are released, rockets stopped being fired into Israel by Hamas and we continue to get more aid in."

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace warned that the conflict risked radicalising young Muslims.

He was responding to comments from Mr Wallace, who warned against a "killing rage" and said Israel's "original legal authority of self-defence is being undermined by its own actions".

Downing Street said a "sustainable ceasefire" is one "that can last, that means that Hamas no longer has a place in Israel, that rockets have stopped firing, that the hostages are returned".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) should do more to ensure its campaign is targeted on Hamas leaders and operatives.

"But of course, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that Hamas deliberately puts Palestinian civilians at risk by embedding themselves in the civilian population and, of course, seizing dozens of hostages which they could release at any point."

Benjamin Netanyahu's administration is facing mounting international concern over the scale of civilian casualties.

The US, Israel's main ally, has also expressed growing unease about the conduct of the war.

On Sunday, French foreign minister Catherine Colonna called for an "immediate truce" aimed at releasing more hostages, getting larger amounts of aid into Gaza and moving towards "the beginning of a political solution".

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Wallace warned: "Netanyahu's mistake was to miss the (Hamas) attack in the first place.

"But if he thinks a killing rage will rectify matters, then he is very wrong. His methods will not solve this problem. In fact, I believe his tactics will fuel the conflict for another 50 years."

He said he was not "calling for a ceasefire with Hamas", but instead that Israel "needs to stop this crude and indiscriminate method of attack".

Alicia Kearns, Tory chairwoman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said she believed Israel had broken international humanitarian law and lost its moral authority.

She said a truce that could be turned into a lasting ceasefire should be pursued, rather than a focus on the eradication of Hamas.

She told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "Hamas is an ideology which recruits into its membership. Bombs don't obliterate an ideology and neither can a stable state be constructed from oblivion."

The Israeli offensive, triggered by the unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, has flattened much of northern Gaza and driven 85% of the territory's population of 2.3 million from their homes.

Aid groups have warned of a spiralling humanitarian crisis as the bombardment continues.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has spoken about her growing fears for her relatives, who are among a group of Christians who have sought shelter in a church compound in Gaza City.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem over the weekend said two Christian women in the Holy Family Church had been killed by Israeli sniper fire "in cold blood" and seven others were wounded, in an incident condemned by church leaders.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said it was a "seemingly deliberate and callous killing by IDF soldiers of innocent civilians".

Ms Moran has warned that her family in Gaza have no electricity, no water or food and described them as "basically besieged".

"I just don't want them to die. Honestly, that's where I'm at. We are a week before Christmas. This is a church," she told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour.

"I want to see them survive to Christmas. And I'm, at this moment in time, not at all sure that's going to happen."

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