Prince William calls for end to Israel-Gaza conflict in rare statement

Heir to the UK throne expressed his concern about the 'terrible human cost' of the war

The Prince of Wales with Chairwoman Liz Padmore and Beatrice Butsana-Sita, British Red Cross Chief Executive, during a visit to the British Red Cross at its headquarters in central London. PA
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Prince William has called for an end to the fighting in Gaza, expressing his concern about the “terrible human cost of the conflict” in an unusually political move for a member of the British royal family.

The heir to King Charles III released the rare statement ahead of the first of two visits to charities in the coming week to acknowledge the suffering caused by the war and rise in antisemitism.

As he left the first of those venues, the British Red Cross’s headquarters in the City of London on Tuesday, he was heckled by a pro-Palestinian protester, who later told The National she was seeking to put pressure on the royal family and had not realised he made the comments ahead of his visit, but welcomed them.

In his statement, the Prince of Wales said: "I, like so many others, want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible.

"There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza. It's critical that aid gets in and the hostages are released.”

Global calls for an end to the fighting continue to mount as Israel prepares to expand its ground assault in the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1 million of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza have sought shelter.

The war began after Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians. Militants also took about 250 hostages - 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, during the attacks, which Prince William’s father, King Charles, called "barbaric acts of terrorism".

Israel's ensuing assault has killed more than 29,000 people, mostly women and children.

"Sometimes it is only when faced with the sheer scale of human suffering that the importance of permanent peace is brought home,” said Prince William, 41, who became the first senior British royal to make an official visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories in 2018.

"Even in the darkest hour, we must not succumb to the counsel of despair. I continue to cling to the hope that a brighter future can be found and I refuse to give up on that,” he added in his statement.

During his visit to the British Red Cross headquarters, the prince was briefed about the charity’s operations in the region and the latest situation on the ground by officials, including Gaza-based Pascal Hundt, Senior Crisis Manager, International Committee of the Red Cross, with whom he spoke to via a video call.

He spent around an hour at the HQ, also meeting with the charity’s psycho-social team who provide mental health support to those who are enduring trauma and suffering around the world.

Protesters heckled the prince as he was leaving the building, shouting “free, free, Palestine”.

One of the protesters, Leelou, who declined to give her full name, told The National she was at the British Red Cross to attend a course.

“I didn’t know what he was doing there,” she said.

“I just saw him and wanted to take the opportunity to put pressure on them. But it’s great if that’s what he said.

The prince, who has taken on more duties following his father King Charles' cancer diagnosis, is also scheduled to attend a synagogue discussion with young people from different communities to speak about antisemitism next week.

King Charles as the head of state exercises functions that are essentially ceremonial and he is not supposed to intervene in political debate. As Prince of Wales, however, he often spoke out on matters close to his heart before he became king.

While Prince William’s engagement with Palestine and Israel was welcomed, many feared he would be limited in what he says, as the royal family seeks to avoid controversy.

“It’s great that Prince William is showing an interest in this conflict and joining those who want to see an end to the horrific atrocities,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

“But as anything he says will be analysed, he will think carefully about what he says,” he said.

“The British Royal Family will not want to be seen as taking a side in the conflict, seeking to avoid controversy,” he said.

Prince William is unlikely to express any political opinions about the conflict. “Realistically [the royal family] will only speak about humanitarian issues. They won’t go any further,” Mr Doyle said.

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Updated: February 20, 2024, 4:40 PM