Sunak pressures Netanyahu on Gaza aid as Israeli offensive continues

Palestinians look at the destruction by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah (Hatem Ali/AP)
Palestinians look at the destruction by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah (Hatem Ali/AP) Palestinians look at the destruction by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Rafah (Hatem Ali/AP)

Rishi Sunak has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that more humanitarian aid is required in the Gaza Strip, as concerns grow about civilian deaths amid the Israeli bombardment.

In a call between the two leaders on Tuesday, Mr Sunak said “more humanitarian aid had to be allowed to enter Gaza, where civilians were in desperate need”.

A Downing Street readout of the call said the Prime Minister “reiterated offers of practical UK support to facilitate deliveries of life-saving aid”.

Cop28 summit
Cop28 summit Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday (Chris Jackson/PA)

It comes as Israel widens its offensive into southern Gaza, with the US pressuring the Israeli administration to prevent further mass causalities after thousands of civilian deaths so far.

Number 10 said Mr Sunak “expressed disappointment about the breakdown of the pause in fighting in Gaza” and “discussed urgent efforts to ensure all remaining hostages are safely freed and to allow any remaining British nationals in Gaza to leave”.

“The Prime Minister offered an update on his engagement with leaders in the Middle East and reiterated his public remarks in the region last week, stressing the need for Israel to take greater care to protect civilians in Gaza and focus narrowly on military targets,” a spokeswoman said.

He also “welcomed commitments to address extremist settler violence and intimidation, which was destabilising the situation in the West Bank”.

It comes after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said he can see “no circumstances” under which British troops would be on the ground in Israel, Gaza or the West Bank.

Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps Grant Shapps (Yui Mok/PA)

MPs earlier pressed Mr Shapps over whether there would be an extension of UK military involvement after he confirmed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will conduct unarmed surveillance flights over the eastern Mediterranean, including in air space over Israel and Gaza.

Mr Shapps said this is part of his pledge to “move heaven and earth” to rescue hostages held by Hamas after the militant group’s attack on Israel on October 7.

But he ruled out British troop involvement, including for peacekeeping operations.

Elsewhere in the Commons session, Mr Shapps said he was looking at new ways of getting aid into Gaza.

Replying to shadow defence secretary John Healey’s calls for more aid, he said: “This country has provided now £60 million worth of additional aid made available for Palestinians. There have been four flights that have taken off so far.

“He … will realise that the problem is not just providing the aid, it is getting it into Gaza, and the Rafah crossing presents a very considerable barrier to that for all sorts of security reasons, so I am actively looking at different routes and he will understand that is one of the reasons why I am going to the region this week.”