Sunak says Netanyahu needs to do more to ease ‘intolerable’ Gaza suffering

Rishi Sunak has said Benjamin Netanyahu “needs to do more” to alleviate suffering in Gaza amid mounting pressure over the UK’s decision not to suspend arms sales to Israel.

The Prime Minister insisted the Government has an “obligation” to follow the legal advice of the conflict in the Middle East, which he said have left in Britain’s position on export licences unchanged.

But he backed calls from Joe Biden for a six-to-eight week ceasefire following the latest intervention from Israel’s closest ally, in which the US President described Mr Netanyahu’s approach to the war as a “mistake.”

But Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron confirmed on Tuesday that Britain would continue to allow sales, prompting criticism from aid organisations and charities.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Sunak defended the move, saying “none of our closest allies” have stopped existing arms export licences, but said he had made it “very clear” to the Israeli premier that he needs to improve aid access.

“It was a shocking tragedy what happened to our veterans when they were selflessly carrying out aid missions into Gaza and I’ve also said repeatedly the situation in Gaza is increasingly intolerable,” he told the programme.

“The humanitarian suffering that people are experiencing isn’t right and Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to do more to alleviate that. I’ve made that very clear to him.”

The Prime Minister added that the UK has a “long-established process” relating to arms export licences and “we review these things regularly”.

“That’s led to no change. Actually none of our closest allies have currently suspended existing arms licences either, so we continue to discuss these things with our allies,” he said.

Ministers have resisted calls to publish the assessments they receive of whether Israel’s military action in Gaza is in line with international humanitarian law but say they are acting in accordance with them.

It comes after Mr Biden ramped up his criticism of Mr Netanyahu in an intervention overnight, branding the Israeli prime minister’s handling of the war a “mistake” in the latest sign of frayed relations between the two allies.

Asked whether he agrees with the US president’s calls for a six to eight week ceasefire, Mr Sunak said: “Yes, we’ve been very aligned on this.

“And I’ve said consistently in Parliament and publicly that what we want to see is an immediate humanitarian pause, so that we can get the hostages out, and it’s critical to remember that Hamas is still holding hostages including Brits, we want to get the hostages released unconditionally, we want to get aid in to help alleviate the suffering, and then use that as a platform to build a sustainable ceasefire.”

Lord Cameron’s announcement on Tuesday came as Mr Netanyahu escalated his threats to carry out a ground invasion of Rafah, saying a date had been set for the operation.

Around 1.4 million Palestinians are currently living in the city in southern Gaza, many of whom have been displaced from other parts of the enclave, and Western countries including the US have opposed the move.

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