UK sees progress in Gaza ceasefire talks

Foreign Secretary says Israel is also considering a British proposal to open port of Ashdod to aid shipments to Gaza

A displaced Palestinian heading south. EPA
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Progress has been made on a deal towards a ceasefire and sending more aid into Gaza, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Friday.

A phased approach to releasing Israeli hostages taken by Hamas in return for a break in hostilities and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel was being considered, he said.

He made his remarks in Istanbul on the same day that the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled that Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide against Gazans.

“Achieving a pause where we stop the fighting and start looking at how to get aid in and hostages out, I think there is a prospect of that. I think we are making some progress,” Lord Cameron said.

“I was pressing for what I think is in everyone's interest, including Israel's interest: to have that immediate pause because it's only then that you can bring the hostages back home.”

Lord Cameron said Israel was also considering a British proposal to open the port of Ashdod to aid shipments to Gaza, but it would “take a lot of pushing” to reach an agreement.

He said he had met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and political leaders in the West Bank as well as Qatar.

In his meetings in Israel, Lord Cameron said he stressed the need for a pause in fighting.

Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue to defend itself after ICJ ruling

Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue to defend itself after ICJ ruling

The war began after Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and captured more than 240 hostages on October 7.

Gaza officials said on Friday the death toll from Israel's military campaign in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave has risen to more than 26,000.

Shortly after Lord Cameron spoke in Istanbul, the ICJ ordered Israel to do more to help Palestinian civilians and said the “catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating”.

Court president Joan Donoghue said the ICJ was “acutely aware of the extent of human tragedy unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continued loss of life and human suffering”.

It did not rule at this stage on the core of the case – whether genocide has occurred in Gaza – but it recognised the right of Palestinians to be protected from acts of genocide, which it described as “plausible”.

At least 500 lorries of aid a day are needed in Gaza and opening up the port at Ashdod, a short distance up the coast from Gaza, would help, Lord Cameron said.

“Ashdod opening would be another massive way of getting aid in, and it's actually essential that we get that aid in,” he said.

“I made the case to the Israeli government, they are considering it, but I know that it's going to take a lot of pushing before we get that fixed.

“I want to see every bottleneck be removed. Israel is responsible for what happens in Gaza, and we need to avoid more of a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Updated: January 26, 2024, 9:20 PM