Humza Yousaf uses Christmas message to renew calls for ceasefire in Gaza

European leaders including Scotland's First Minister address Israel-Gaza war in Christmas messages

Humza Yousaf has delivered his first Christmas message since being elected Scotland's First Minister. PA
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Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said he is using the festive season to pray for peace in the Middle East.

Mr Yousaf used his first Christmas message to renew his call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.

Scotland’s first Muslim leader, whose in-laws fled the conflict in Gaza, said Christmas came at a time when people were “concerned about the state of the world and the future”.

“We are witnessing unimaginable horrors taking place in the very region of Christ’s birth,” he said.

“My prayer this Christmas is for peace and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, so we see the end of the killing of innocent civilians.”

Mr Yousaf – who was recently rebuked by the British government for meeting world leaders without a UK government official present – is one of several European leaders to address the Middle East conflict in Christmas messages.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez used a call with troops serving abroad to criticise Israel over the plight of civilians in Gaza.

Hamas’s October 7 offensive in Israel was “one of the cruellest terrorist attacks in recent history”, but Israel’s response has led to “unbearable, unacceptable suffering”, Mr Sanchez said.

Mr Sanchez, who plans to visit Iraq after Christmas, also paid tribute to Spanish peacekeeping troops operating in Lebanon under the “harsh conditions” of cross-border fire with Israel.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier acknowledged people’s exhaustion with global crises as he called for social harmony threatened by the fallout from the Israel-Gaza war.

People in Germany have been horrified by the violence in the Middle East in a year in which the world has “shown its dark side”, Mr Steinmeier said in released extracts of a speech to be broadcast on Monday.

Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins put his focus on child victims of the conflict.

“This Christmas, we are conscious that across the world there are many people facing the most horrific of circumstances of war and displacement,” he said.

“We think in particular of all of the children in Gaza and Israel, places known to many as a Holy Land, and that has been darkened by the taking of so many lives, and too many young lives in particular, in recent months.”

Pope Francis will give his traditional Urbi et Orbi message on Christmas Day, in which he often comments on world affairs. The pontiff has called for a ceasefire in Gaza and progress towards a two-state solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Updated: December 24, 2023, 11:33 AM