Britain, France stress need to get aid into Gaza

Smoke rises over Gaza, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza, in southern Israel

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed their concern about getting aid into Gaza and the risks of the Israel-Hamas war spreading, Downing Street said after the leaders spoke by phone on Sunday.

Israeli forces have expanded their ground operations in Gaza while their fighter jets have struck hundreds more Hamas targets in what Israel called the second phase of a three-week-old war.

Sunak and Macron have both visited Israel and neighbouring countries since the deadly rampage by Hamas gunmen in Israel early this month that triggered the conflict.

"The leaders stressed the importance of getting urgent humanitarian support into Gaza. They agreed to work together on efforts both to get crucial food, fuel, water and medicine to those who need it, and to get foreign nationals out," a spokesperson for Sunak said.

"They expressed their shared concern at the risk of escalation in the wider region, in particular in the West Bank."

According to a readout by Macron's office, the leaders also reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself within the limits of international law and the importance of finding a way to release the hostages held by Hamas.

Both leaders said the long stalled two-state solution, envisaging independent states for the Israelis and Palestinians, was the best way to create peace.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Michel Rose; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Hugh Lawson)