Rishi Sunak to fly to Israel as he says Gaza hospital blast should be 'watershed moment' in conflict

18 October 2023, 22:33 | Updated: 19 October 2023, 06:39

Rishi Sunak will fly out to Israel on Thursday
Rishi Sunak will fly out to Israel on Thursday. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Rishi Sunak will fly to Israel on Thursday to meet political leaders and push for Palestinians to be allowed to leave war-torn Gaza.

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The Prime Minister's visit is part of a wider two-day trip to the Middle East, during which he will visit other regional capitals.

He will meet Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Isaac Herzog on Thursday. A Downing Street spokesperson said that Mr Sunak will raise the need for people trapped in Gaza to be allowed to leave.

It comes after Egypt agreed on Wednesday night to let 20 lorry-loads of aid into southern Gaza via the Rafah crossing on its border, following a visit to Israel by US president Joe Biden.

Israel has said it would not stop the aid getting to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in need, provided the materials do not find their way into the hands of Hamas.

Read more: Mo Salah calls for end to 'slaughter of innocent souls' in Gaza, as Egypt to let 20 lorryloads of aid across border

Read more: Livestream footage claims to prove rocket fired from Gaza killed hundreds at hospital

Palestinian paramedics treat wounded Palestinians,
Palestinian paramedics treat wounded Palestinians,. Picture: Alamy

Mr Sunak also condemned the loss of life from a blast at a hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday, as he said it should provide a "watershed moment" in the conflict.

Ahead of his trip, the Prime Minister said: "Every civilian death is a tragedy. And too many lives have been lost following Hamas's horrific act of terror.

"The attack on al Ahli Hospital should be a watershed moment for leaders in the region and across the world to come together to avoid further dangerous escalation of conflict. I will ensure the UK is at the forefront of this effort."

It had been reported that Mr Sunak would travel to Israel earlier this week, but it was not confirmed until Wednesday evening.

Rishi Sunak will fly to Israel on Thursday
Rishi Sunak will fly to Israel on Thursday. Picture: Getty

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will visit regional powers Egypt, Turkey and Qatar in the coming days to underscore the UK's message.

Mr Cleverly said: ""It is in no one's interests - neither Israeli, Palestinian nor the wider Middle East - for others to be drawn into this conflict.

"I am meeting counterparts from influential states in the region to push for calm and stability, facilitate humanitarian access into Gaza and work together to secure the release of hostages."

Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza claimed at least 500 people, including women and children, were killed when a rocket hit the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital on Tuesday evening. The group blamed an Israeli air strike, which Israel vehemently denied.

Israel said it was a misfired rocket launched by terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who themselves denied responsibility. The Israel Defence Force (IDF) released images and audio that it claimed showed it was not responsible.

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The death toll of the strike has not been independently confirmed.

A clip streamed live on Israeli TV by Keshet 12 News on Wednesday appears to show a series of missiles being launched into the night sky, seconds before the explosion at the hospital.

The conflict started when Hamas massacred more than 1,000 Israelis on October 7 in the biggest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust and kidnapped about 200 people.

That led to a furious retaliation from Israel, including a bombardment that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes.