Sunak renews call for humanitarian pauses in Gaza in talks with regional leaders

Sunak renews call for humanitarian pauses in Gaza in talks with regional leaders

Rishi Sunak issues renewed calls for “sustained humanitarian pauses” in Gaza as he met regional leaders on the sidelines of the Cop28 summit after fighting resumed.

The Prime Minister held talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Dubai as well as the leaders of Egypt, Qatar and Jordan to discuss the conflict.

He “spent most of his bilateral meetings discussing that situation”, his spokesman told reporters travelling with him.

“There was obviously shared disappointment and regret among the leaders that obviously the humanitarian pause has seemingly ended,” the official said.

“The discussions were focused on practical steps that can now be taken to both bring about more humanitarian pauses so more hostages can be released, how we can get more aid in as well, while also standing by Israel’s right to self-defence.”

Israel restarted combat operations in the Gaza Strip minutes after a temporary truce expired on Friday, blaming Hamas for breaking the ceasefire.

Speaking to broadcasters in Dubai earlier, Mr Sunak said: “We’ve been consistent that we want to see sustained humanitarian pauses so that more aid can get in to the people of Gaza but also the hostages can come out. Those are critical ingredients. And, as we’ve said, everyone needs to adhere to the terms of these agreements.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at Cop28 in Dubai
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends the opening ceremony of the World Climate Action Summit at Cop28 in Dubai (Chris Jackson/PA)

Downing Street said Mr Sunak told the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, that Hamas had “demonstrated that it could not be a partner for peace” and could have “no future in Gaza”.

In his meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, the PM reiterated the UK’s commitment to work towards “a lasting resolution” to the conflict and “reassured (him) that the UK continues to press Israel on the need to adhere to international humanitarian law and contain settler violence in the West Bank”, No 10 said.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer said Labour wanted to see “an extension of the cessation of hostilities”.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai, the Labour leader, whose party has been deeply split over whether to back an immediate ceasefire, said: “I think everybody who’s seen the developments today is going to be deeply saddened by it, and what we are calling for even at this late hour is for all sides to try to reach an extension of the cessation of hostilities that we’ve seen over recent days.

“That has provided an opportunity for hostages to be released, for more humanitarian aid to come in, and if it’s extended it also provides the opportunity for progress towards a political settlement here.”

Sir Keir said any further action by Israel must be in accordance with international law as “too many innocent Palestinian lives, particularly children, have already been lost in this conflict”.

Cop28 summit
Sir Keir Starmer told reporters in Dubai there should be ‘an extension of the cessation of hostilities’ in Gaza (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho told broadcasters on the morning media round: “I think it’s first important to say that I think the truce was actually broken by Hamas.”

She told Sky News: “Of course it’s disappointing that fighting has resumed … but at the same time Israel has to defend itself.”

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron is attending Cop28 alongside the Prime Minister and Ms Coutinho, and will also talk to counterparts at the event about the issue.

The Israeli military said on Friday that its fighter jets had begun striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, 30 minutes after an extended ceasefire expired at 7am (0500 GMT).

During the week-long truce, Hamas and other militants in Gaza released more than 100 hostages, most of them Israelis, in return for 240 Palestinians freed from prisons in Israel.

Mediators Qatar and Egypt had sought to prolong the break in fighting by another two days.

Weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground campaign have left more than three-quarters of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million uprooted, leading to a humanitarian crisis.

More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed — roughly two-thirds of them women and children — according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Some 1,200 Israelis have been killed, mostly during Hamas’s deadly October 7 attack that triggered the war.