James Cleverly: UK will not rush to judgment on Gaza hospital atrocity

Foreign Secretary heading to the Middle East to visit Egypt, Qatar and Turkey

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is expected to travel to the Middle East. PA Wire
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British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is urging people to “wait for the facts” about what caused the explosion at Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza.

The call comes as he prepares to travel to Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.

The UK government has not formally attributed blame for the blast, which Hamas said was caused by an Israeli air strike. The Israeli military said a rocket misfired by Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad caused the explosion.

"I have travelled to Israel, I've engaged with G7 allies, regional partners, and will be visiting the region again later on today, because we recognise that this will require intensive efforts," Mr Cleverly told parliament.

Last week he visited Israel after the attacks by Hamas.

He has not set out details of the itinerary for his latest trip, but in Egypt he is expected to discuss the opening of a border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow humanitarian aid in and citizens to leave.

On Wednesday, Mr Cleverly called for "cool heads" and described the hospital blast as an "appalling tragedy".

“Last night, too many jumped to conclusions around the tragic loss of life at Al Ahli hospital," Mr Cleverly wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Getting this wrong would put even more lives at risk. Wait for the facts, report them clearly and accurately. Cool heads must prevail.”

He told parliament that a hospital is a "place of compassion and care".

He says the UK is "working intensively with our allies to establish fact".

"We will not rush to judgment," he said.

"Pointing fingers prematurely only fuels regional instability. We need a firm grasp of what has happened. We all share a duty to be thoughtful and careful.

"We are carefully analysing evidence in the public domain – as soon as we reach a definitive conclusion we will make it public."

Protests erupt across Middle Eastern cities after Gaza hospital strike

Protests erupt across Middle Eastern cities after Gaza hospital strike

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence is working rapidly to independently establish who was responsible for the hospital blast.

He urged MPs not to “rush to judgment” on Wednesday as Israel and Hamas issued rival claims about the atrocity feared to have killed at least 500 at Al Ahli.

Visiting Tel Aviv, US President Joe Biden sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telling him it “appears as though it was done by the other team, not you”.

Mr Cleverly said “we take note of what President Biden has said” but that the UK is working to come to a “definitive conclusion for ourselves”.

Mr Sunak told the House of Commons that he was unable to reveal the UK verdict after holding talks with the National Security Adviser and the Joint Intelligence Committee.

“We should not rush to judgment before we have all the facts on this awful situation,” he told Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Every member will know that the words we say here have an impact beyond the House.

“Our intelligence services have been rapidly analysing the evidence to independently establish the facts. We are not in a position at this point to say more than that.”

But he said they were working “at pace” while “co-operating and collaborating with our allies on this issue as we look to get to the bottom of the situation”.

Mr Sunak said the UK was continuing to press to get humanitarian aid into Gaza and is “working around the clock” to free the hostages taken by Hamas.

At least seven British citizens were killed in the terrorist group’s atrocity in Israel on October 7.

Downing Street said that nine UK citizens are still missing, with some of those feared dead, while others could be among the hostages.

Before the hospital blast, Mr Sunak was understood to be keen on travelling to Israel – following trips by Germany’s Olaf Scholz and Mr Biden – with reports suggesting he could go as soon as Thursday.

Downing Street refused to comment on the Prime Minister’s possible travel plans.

Updated: October 18, 2023, 3:01 PM