Rishi Sunak expresses solidarity with Israel over Hamas attack
The UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has arrived in Israel for a two-day visit to show his support for the country after a deadly attack by Hamas on October 7. He will meet with Israeli leaders and urge them to avoid further escalation of violence in the region.
Sunak said he was in Israel to “express my solidarity with the Israeli people” who have suffered a “horrific act of terrorism”. He also said he wanted to ensure the UK was at the forefront of efforts to prevent more bloodshed.
The Prime Minister’s visit comes as Humza Yousaf, the First Minister of Scotland, revealed that his brother-in-law, a doctor in Gaza, had refused to leave his post despite the dire situation. Yousaf praised the health workers in Gaza as “heroes”.
Hospital blast sparks protests and condemnation
The main trigger for Sunak’s trip was the explosion at al Ahli hospital in Gaza City on October 16, which killed hundreds of people and injured many more. The blast was blamed on either a rocket misfire by Islamic Jihad, another militant group in Gaza, or an Israeli airstrike.
The hospital deaths sparked outrage and protests across the Middle East, including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The Hezbollah group, a key ally of Hamas, also held a rally in Beirut. The Foreign Office advised British nationals to leave Lebanon as soon as possible.
US President Joe Biden also flew into Israel on Wednesday to try to calm the situation and facilitate humanitarian aid to Gaza. He urged Israel not to be “consumed by” rage and to avoid making the same “mistakes” the US did after September 11, 2001.
Security minister slams ‘irresponsible speculation’ over blast
The UK security minister Tom Tugendhat has criticised some of the commentary on social media platforms about the hospital blast, calling it “irresponsible speculation” or “propaganda by a terrorist organisation”. He said such speculation had cost lives and derailed diplomatic talks.
Tugendhat said British intelligence services were still working to establish the facts surrounding the blast. He accused Hamas of carrying out “barbaric” acts of terror and said the UK stood with Israel in its right to defend itself.
He also said he would not name names over who he thought was responsible for the speculation, but pointed to some of the posts by prominent figures and organisations.
Sunak calls for aid and hostages release
During his trip to the Middle East, Sunak is expected to press for aid to be allowed into Gaza and for those “trapped in the territory” to be allowed to leave. He will also work together with other leaders to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and other groups.
Sunak said every civilian death was a tragedy and too many lives had been lost following Hamas’s attack. He said the attack on al Ahli hospital should be a watershed moment for leaders to come together and avoid further conflict.
He said he would share his condolences for the loss of life in Israel and Gaza and call for an end to the violence. He also said he hoped to strengthen the UK’s ties with Israel and other countries in the region.
What will happen next?
The Prime Minister’s visit is seen as a crucial step in trying to restore peace and stability in the Middle East. However, it is also fraught with challenges and risks, as tensions remain high and emotions run deep.
Will Sunak be able to persuade Netanyahu and Herzog to ease their blockade on Gaza and allow humanitarian aid? Will he be able to convince Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stop firing rockets at Israel and release their hostages? Will he be able to prevent other actors, such as Iran, Turkey or Hezbollah, from interfering or escalating the situation?
The answers to these questions will determine whether Sunak’s trip will be a success or a failure, and whether there is any hope for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.