Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that the Hamas attack on Israel was aimed at preventing the expansion of peace in the Middle East, and called on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to continue supporting the Israeli counter-offensive in Gaza.
Rishi Sunak is the latest Western leader to visit Jerusalem to express his support for Israel and try to find a way to secure the release of hostages captured by Hamas and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
The British leader then flew to Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Sources have said Saudi Arabia has put on hold US-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel.
Netanyahu said the attack from Gaza by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which killed 1,400 people in Israel, was aimed at derailing efforts to broker broader peace in the region.
“We were about to extend that peace, and destroying that step was one of the reasons why this action was taken,” Netanyahu told Rishi Sunak during their meeting in Jerusalem.
“This is our darkest hour,” he added. “That means this is a long war and we need your continued support.”
Rishi Sunak met Netanyahu after talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog. He welcomed the decision to allow aid to Gaza, saying he knew Israel was “taking all precautions to avoid harming civilians, unlike Hamas terrorists.”
Earlier, Rishi Sunak and Herzog underlined the need to prevent an escalation of violence in the region, which has led to angry demonstrations in some countries, including over an explosion at a hospital in Gaza, which Palestinians blamed on Israel.
Israel denies carrying out the attack and US President Joe Biden said US evidence supported the Israeli narrative that the incident was caused by a failed rocket launch by Palestinian fighters.
Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the British government was still waiting for a report from the security services before giving its opinion.
“We will stand with you in solidarity with your people and your right to defend yourself, to return security to your country, to your people, to ensure the safe return of the hostages that have been taken,” Rishi Sunak said in a television broadcast. part of the meeting with Herzog.
“Palestinians are victims of what Hamas has done. It is important that we continue to provide humanitarian access.”
At least nine British nationals have been killed and seven remain missing since the attack on Israel, spokesman Rishi Sunak said.
In Israel, Rishi Sunak met the families of two of the missing, who are believed to be hostages and being held in Gaza.
Rishi Sunak’s trip to Saudi Arabia is part of coordinated efforts with his Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, who is in Egypt and will visit Turkey and Qatar over the next three days.
Cleverly, who visited Israel last week, met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and will meet ministers in Turkey and Qatar, all countries that Britain says are “critical to international efforts to maintain regional stability enforcement, freeing hostages and enabling humanitarian access to Gaza.”
The wave of diplomacy is a step change from what some commentators say has been a decade of declining British influence in the Middle East, with London seen as a junior partner to the United States.
The last British Prime Minister to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank was David Cameron in 2014. In 2022, the government quietly axed a ministerial post dedicated to relations with the Middle East, combining that role with North Africa, South Asia and the United Nations. .
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