British PM Sunak backs Israel but presses on Gaza aid
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday pressed Israel to let more humanitarian aid into Gaza as he stepped up a campaign by Western leaders to reinforce support for Israel after attacks by Hamas.
Sunak, following visits this week by US President Joe Biden and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, expressed strong backing for Israeli action after the October 7 raids in which at least 1,400 died and more than 200 people were taken hostage.
But he said after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog that it was also important to get food, water and medicine to blockaded Gaza’s 2.4 million population.
Read:Deal struck to open Gaza border for aid
After meeting Biden, Netanyahu on Wednesday agreed to let aid through Gaza’s only access to the outside world, the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
But Israel has insisted it will stop any supplies reaching Hamas.
On Thursday, the Rafah crossing remained closed.
Neither Netanyahu nor Herzog mentioned aid in their comments after talks with the British prime minister.
But Sunak said “it’s important that we continue to provide humanitarian access” and “protect civilian life”, as he welcomed the Israeli move.
He said Britain has increased its aid to the Palestinian territories “and we are keen to see that that gets to those who need it”.
“I very much welcome the progress that we’ve made on that,” he added.
Downing Street said in a statement that with Herzog, Sunak “expressed his sincere hope that further progress could be made on delivering crucial food, water and medicine”.
Yet Sunak, like the other leaders, gave strong support to Israel’s action against Hamas following what he called a “horrific” attack.
Read:US backs Israel account of Gaza hospital strike
Netanyahu said it would be a “long war” against Hamas and called for prolonged international support.
“I’ve never seen the people of Israel as united — more united — than they are now. But we need unity across the board and continued support as we prosecute and win this just war,” he added.
Sunak flew on to Saudi Arabia where he was to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later Thursday, his spokesman said.
The talks would include efforts to maintain regional stability, getting aid into Gaza and how to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.
In parallel, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is visiting Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, according to the government.