UK vows to back Israel as Gaza faces imminent offensive

October 15, 2023 by AAP
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to stand with Israel, one week on from the attack by Hamas, as concerns grow about the fate of civilians in Gaza ahead of an imminent offensive.

UK PM Rishi Sunak and Israel’s President Herzog

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the UK on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The UN, aid emergencies and human rights organisations have urged world leaders to intervene as many Palestinians struggle to flee ahead of an offensive in the Gaza Strip involving air, ground and naval forces.

In London, marchers carrying flags and flares chanted pro-Palestinian slogans and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joined crowds urging Israeli restraint as civilians suffer under a total siege.

Chants of “Rishi Sunak, shame on you” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” rang out among the crowd as the gathering made its way through the capital to Downing Street.

The heavily policed rally took place with little incident, although 15 people were arrested.

Nine officers were treated for minor injuries amid altercations between police and a small minority of protesters in Trafalgar Square.

In his statement on Saturday, the prime minister offered a direct message to Israel and the UK’s Jewish community – both left reeling following the assault by Palestinian militants.

Condemning the attack, he said the UK will do “everything we can to support Israel in restoring the security it deserves”.

“We stand with Israel, not just today, not just tomorrow, but always,” he said.

“And I stand with you, the British Jewish community, not just today, not just tomorrow, but always. Am Yisrael Chai.”

Mr Sunak’s statement was questioned by Amnesty International UK, which said it was “deeply troubling” the Prime Minister failed to mention the Palestinian civilians killed in the conflict or call for international law to be upheld.

Twelve aid agencies, including Oxfam, Action Against Hunger and Action Aid, also called on Mr Sunak and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to use the UK’s influence to help “prevent further suffering”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself, on Saturday called for all parties to the conflict to follow international law and ensure “safe humanitarian corridors in Gaza for those fleeing violence”.

Demonstrations also took place in Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and in locations across the country.

In the Scottish capital, thousands of people staged an impromptu march to the Scottish Parliament,  before taking the knee in solidarity with Palestinians caught up in the conflict.

Ahead of the rallies, Home Secretary Suella Braverman urged police chiefs to consider whether chanting some pro-Palestine slogans could amount to an offence, while also suggesting waving Palestinian flags could in some contexts be seen as illegitimate.

It comes as the Foreign Office said three charter flights have left Israel carrying Britons, with more expected in the coming hours.


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