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Cameron: Israel should stop and think seriously before Rafah offensive

Cameron: Israel should stop and think seriously before Rafah offensive

Israel should “stop and think seriously” before taking further action in Rafah in the south of Gaza, the Foreign Secretary has said.

The town was hit by airstrikes overnight, with Israel signalling its intention to carry out a ground offensive in the area.

Lord David Cameron said many of the people in Rafah had already fled from other areas and said it is “impossible to see how you can fight a war amongst these people, there is nowhere for them to go”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said they were “deeply concerned” about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.

The town, on the border with Egypt, is one of the few regions not yet targeted by an Israeli ground offensive and is providing refuge to more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population who have fled fighting elsewhere.

Also on Monday, the Foreign Office sanctioned four Israeli settlers accused of committing human rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Announcing the restrictions, the Foreign Office said Israel’s “failure to act” had led to “an environment of near total impunity for settler extremists”, with violence in the West Bank reaching record levels in 2023.

Israel Palestinians
Destroyed buildings in Rafah in southern Gaza (Hatem Ali/AP)

Speaking to reporters in East Kilbride, Scotland, Lord Cameron said: “We are very concerned about what is happening in Rafah because, let’s be clear, the people there, many of whom have moved four, five, six times before getting there.

“It really, we think, is impossible to see how you can fight a war amongst these people, there is nowhere for them to go.

“They can’t go south into Egypt, they can’t go north and back to their homes because many have been destroyed.

“So we are very concerned about the situation and we want Israel to stop and think seriously before it takes any further action.

Israel-Hamas war: reported Israeli ground operations
(PA Graphics)

“But above all, what we want is an immediate pause in the fighting. We want that pause to lead to a ceasefire, a sustainable ceasefire without a return to further fighting. That is what should happen now.

“We need to get those hostages out, including the British nationals. We need to get the aid in. The best way to do that is to stop the fighting now and turn that into a permanent, sustainable ceasefire.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are obviously deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.

“Over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering there and that crossing is vital to ensuring aid can reach the people who desperately need it.”

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians inspect the damage to residential buildings where two Israeli hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah (Fatima Shbair/AP)

It comes as 21 different agencies and organisations have written to the Prime Minister urging him to call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the offensive in Rafah, as well as the suspension of all arms export licences for sales Israel.

The list of signees includes ActionAid UK, Cafod, Christian Aid and Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights.

“We, as agencies united, attempted to work together with the Government towards leveraging what the UK can do to halt these atrocities. We are losing confidence in ministers as the UK appears utterly incapable of restraining Israel in its current attempts,” the letter says.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said sending troops into Rafah is necessary to eliminate Hamas.

He announced on Friday that he had asked the military to prepare to enter Rafah and evacuate hundreds of thousands of people.

The White House has said President Joe Biden told the Israeli prime minister on Sunday there should be no military operation in the densely populated Gaza border town without a “credible” plan to protect civilians.

Two Israeli hostages were rescued from Rafah overnight following a raid on a heavily guarded apartment in the town.

The accompanying airstrikes killed at least 67 people, according to a spokesman for the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Downing Street declined to say whether Mr Netanyahu’s claim that “total victory” over Hamas is months is realistic.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said: “That’s the prime minister of Israel’s language.

“From the PM’s perspective, what we want to see is a pause in this fighting so we can get aid in and hostages out, and obviously what we all want to see is a sustainable ceasefire.

“Clearly, in order to reach that, as we’ve said before, we need to see measures taken including Hamas no longer in charge of Gaza and an arrangement that ensures the sustainable security of Israel, as well as aid in to support the people living in Gaza.”