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David Cameron tells Israel to stop and think over its planned Rafah offensive as he warns of the ‘devastating humanitarian impact’ it could have


David Cameron has warned of the ‘devastating humanitarian impacts’ of a full ground offensive in Rafah as he urged Israel to implement a ‘sustainable, permanent ceasefire’.

The Foreign Secretary expressed his ‘deep concern’ about the prospect of an attack on Gaza‘s overcrowded southern city, where around 1.5million Palestinians are sheltering.

In a letter to the Commons foreign affairs committee chairman Alicia Kearns, Lord Cameron said Israel must ‘stop and think’ about the repercussions of a military offensive.

He wrote: ‘We do not underestimate the devastating humanitarian impacts that a full ground offensive, if enacted, would have in these circumstances, which is why I have been vocal about the Government’s concern.

‘We are, of course, aware of the targeted hostage rescue that has already taken place in Rafah and I am relieved that two more hostages have been freed.’

David Cameron has warned of the 'devastating humanitarian impacts' of a full ground offensive in Rafah as he urged Israel to implement a 'sustainable, permanent ceasefire'

David Cameron has warned of the ‘devastating humanitarian impacts’ of a full ground offensive in Rafah as he urged Israel to implement a ‘sustainable, permanent ceasefire’

Israeli soldiers operate in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas

Israeli soldiers operate in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas

He continued: ‘Despite this, and as I have said, we want Israel to stop and think seriously about the repercussions of a military offensive before it takes any further action.’

The letter, dated February 15, was published last night as the US proposed a draft UN resolution which warned Israel not to invade Rafah.

Earlier this week, a member of Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet threatened to invade the city unless hostages held by Hamas are freed by Ramadan. The UK Government has resisted supporting calls for an immediate ceasefire, instead backing a ‘sustainable’ cessation of hostilities, but international pressure has mounted on Israel amid concerns over an incursion in Rafah.

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been the major lifeline to get aid to the Palestinians.

Lord Cameron said it was ‘difficult to see’ how a ground offensive in Rafah could be carried out while taking all possible steps to avoid harming civilians and destroying homes.

He added: ‘Above all, to protect civilians in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza, the priority must be to secure an immediate pause in the fighting, which is the best way to get aid in and hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to fighting.

Palestinians inspect a heavily damaged vehicle after the Israeli attacks in Rafah

Palestinians inspect a heavily damaged vehicle after the Israeli attacks in Rafah

‘We are closely engaged in lobbying Israel – as well as those with influence on Hamas – to negotiate an immediate humanitarian pause, and to protect civilians.’

Lord Cameron’s comments come as he visited the Falkland Islands where he indicated the UK could be prepared to back the island’s government to use its own financial clout and borrowing power to support oil exploration.

Lord Cameron is today due to attend a meeting of G20 counterparts – including Russia’s Sergei Lavrov – in Brazil. Russia’s actions in Ukraine will also be the subject of a UN session in New York later in the week which Lord Cameron will attend.

Downing Street yesterday declined to say whether the UK would support a US draft resolution at the UN that calls for a ceasefire linked to the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.



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