UK's Sunak backs Israel’s right to defend itself as he marks six months since Hamas attack

Prime Minister demands end to conflict after airstrike killed three British aid workers

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "the whole of the UK is shocked by the bloodshed" in the Israel-Gaza war. AP
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The UK continues to stand by Israel’s right to defend its security, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said following six months of conflict.

But Mr Sunak urged the Israelis to ensure aid gets into Gaza more swiftly, and said the UK remains “appalled” by an Israeli air strike that killed three British aid workers.

Sunday marks six months since the October 7 attack, in which Hamas militants breached the barrier between Gaza and Israel and attacked military bases and civilian communities.

More than 1,100 people were killed, with 250 people captured as hostages by Hamas, approximately 130 of whom remain in captivity.

It was the trigger for Israel’s continuing military action in the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health authority, as well as mass displacement of the population and an continuing humanitarian crisis.

Mr Sunak said: “Today marks six months since the terrorist outrage of October 7 – the most appalling attack in Israel’s history, the worst loss of Jewish life since the Second World War.

“Six months later, Israeli wounds are still unhealed. Families still mourn and hostages are still held by Hamas.”

“We continue to stand by Israel’s right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend their security.

“But the whole of the UK is shocked by the bloodshed, and appalled by the killing of brave British heroes who were bringing food to those in need.”

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John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were the three Britons among seven aid workers who died in air strikes carried out by Israeli military on a World Central Kitchen convoy on April 1.

The Prime Minister highlighted the growing toll on Palestinian civilians, and said the UK had been “straining every sinew” to get aid into Gaza, while emphasising the need for Hamas to release its captives.

"This terrible conflict must end. The hostages must be released. The aid....must be flooded in," he added.

He called for an immediate humanitarian pause in the fighting “leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire”.

David Lammy, the opposition Labour party’s shadow foreign secretary, also called for Israeli hostages to be returned home, and condemned the “intolerable death and destruction” of Israel's military campaign.

But in contrast to Mr Sunak, he called for “an immediate ceasefire”.

In recent weeks, the British Government has come under pressure to reveal whether it has received legal advice about continuing arms sales to Israel.

Mr Lammy said: “The UK Government must also unequivocally commit to complying with international law in this conflict, including following the licensing criteria governing arms sales, as well as calling on Israel to implement the provisional measures in the ICJ's binding January ruling in full.”

The International Court of Justice ruling ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent genocide against Gazansand allow vital aid into the Palestinian enclave.

Mr Lammy also insisted there was a need to “look forward to how we can build a just and lasting peace out of the horrors of this war”.

Updated: April 06, 2024, 10:11 PM