Tory MPs call for 'immediate ceasefire' in Gaza

Group of Tory MPs write to David Cameron saying case for Gaza ceasefire ‘unanswerable’

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron. EPA
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A group of Conservative MPs, including three former Cabinet ministers, have written to the Foreign Secretary to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The group of 10, including former Cabinet ministers Kit Malthouse, David Jones and George Eustice, told David Cameron they were dismayed by the UK's abstention in the UN vote calling for a halt in hostilities, adding that the case is unanswerable.

"The case for a ceasefire seems to us to be unanswerable, with many thousands of civilians dead and injured and close to two million forcibly displaced," they said.

That came after another group, including former head of the armed forces Lord Richards and six former British ambassadors, wrote to British Mr Cameron to warn the UK's failure to call for a ceasefire is “strategically ill-advised and morally indefensible” ahead of Tuesday's key UN Security Council vote.

British government officials have indicated to The National that with the very high Palestinian death toll its position on Israel’s military operation in Gaza is “hardening”.

“Our language is certainly hardening towards Israel and the window is certainly closing [on the military operation in Gaza],” a government source said.

It was also suggested that the Israelis might have just a few weeks left in which to complete major offensive manoeuvres before pressure from its allies became too intense for a ceasefire.

But the source indicated that it was ultimately down to the American position on when Israel would stop operations.

'We are on the right side of history'

Paul Bristow said on X that he was part of the group of MPs who had written to Mr Cameron.

"On October 26 I called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza," Mr Bristow said. "I lost my job as a PPS [parliamentary private secretary].

"Today more Conservative MP colleagues call for a ceasefire. This is big news.

"Lord Cameron has called for lasting peace. Every day more people call for a ceasefire.

"We are on the right side of history."

The western approach to how Israel is conducting its military offensive against Hamas appears to be hardening.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week shifted his language to call for a “sustainable ceasefire”, urging Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel and release hostages in exchange for aid.

The letter from the foreign policy and military experts noted the government's "slight positive change in tone late last week".

It added: “However, the UK’s continued rejection of an immediate ceasefire is strategically ill-advised and morally indefensible. Conventional military wisdom is clear: political solutions stop conflict, free hostages and protect innocent civilians. Aerial bombardment does not. The longer violence goes on, the harder it will be to reduce tensions between Palestinian and Israeli communities."

The letter went on to say the “international consensus is overwhelming” and the UK and US were the only countries not to vote in favour of a series of measures and resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“These votes left the US and UK increasingly isolated, and at risk of becoming complicit in breaches of international law in Gaza.”

The 10-week war has killed more than 19,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Mr Cameron is visiting Paris and Rome on Tuesday in an attempt to foster European unity on the Israel-Gaza war, Ukraine and efforts to tackle unauthorised migration.

During the one-day trip, he will meet the leaders of France and Italy, Emmanuel Macron and Giorgia Meloni, as well as their foreign ministers.

Speaking from Paris, he said on Tuesday that France and the UK will support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion "for as long as it takes", adding it was essential that President Vladimir Putin was defeated.

"Britain and France have been staunch supporters of Ukraine and we will continue to be for as long as it takes," Mr Cameron said after talks in Paris with French counterpart Catherine Colonna, adding: "I have no doubt that we can make sure Putin loses and it is essential he does lose."

His visit follows Mr Sunak's meeting with Ms Meloni on Saturday, with the leader of Britain's Conservative Party warning that the threat of migration could “overwhelm” European states.

Ahead of his trip, Mr Cameron – who resigned as prime minister after the UK electorate voted to leave the EU during the 2016 Brexit referendum – said Britain needed to “strengthen our alliances” in the face of global crises.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the visit will look ahead to a milestone year for UK-France relations in 2024.

Next year marks 120 years since the signing of the Entente Cordiale and 80 years since the D-Day landings that helped liberate Europe during the Second World War.

In Rome, Mr Cameron will hold talks with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, and address Italian ambassadors at Italy's foreign ministry for their annual heads of mission conference.

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He will also meet Ms Meloni, with efforts to tackle unauthorised migration at the top of the agenda.

Officials said the pair will welcome a new agreement between the two countries, announced during Mr Sunak’s trip to the Italian capital on Saturday, to contribute £4 million ($5.1 million) to the International Organisation for Migration’s assisted voluntary returns project in Tunisia.

The FCDO said the joint funding will go towards providing humanitarian assistance and support for vulnerable and stranded migrants to return home safely.

Mr Sunak has made putting a stop to boats carrying migrants crossing the English Channel one of his top priorities ahead of an expected general election next year.

The Prime Minister is looking to pass an emergency law to prevent asylum seekers from legally contesting the government’s plan to deport some migrants to Rwanda in East Africa.

Updated: December 19, 2023, 10:07 AM