October 20, 2023
Diplomatic Efforts: Sunak’s visit follows other leaders like German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden, as they try to prevent the conflict from widening
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, left, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem yesterday. Photo: EPA-EFE
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, yesterday for a two-day visit to the wider region, as the UK joined the procession of foreign leaders visiting Israel in a bid to prevent the conflict from widening.
The prime minister arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport early yesterday ahead of meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog. He is then due to head a “number of other regional capitals,” his office said, which did not set out which countries he intends to visit.
“I grieve with you and stand with you against the evil that is terrorism,” Sunak said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, shortly after his arrival in Israel. “Today, and always.”
With the death toll mounting in Gaza City amid an Israeli bombardment that followed Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel this month, Western leaders are seeking to avoid the conflict sucking in other countries. That is especially after a blast at a hospital on Tuesday in Gaza that Palestinian officials said killed hundreds. Israel and Hamas have issued rival claims about who was responsible.
Sunak’s visit follows others by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday and US President Joe Biden on Wednesday. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would travel to the region “as soon as I consider that we have a useful agenda and very concrete actions to drive forward.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Sunak said British intelligence was working rapidly to establish who was behind the blast at the Gaza hospital.
Speaking in Parliament, Sunak urged MPs not to “rush to judgement.”
Hamas — designated a terrorist group by the EU, the UK and the US — blames Israel for the explosion, while Israel’s army says the hospital was struck in a failed missile attack by militants from the Islamic Jihad group.
Anti-Israel protests broke out in several major cities in the region.
British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly is also touring the Middle East, starting in Egypt yesterday. He is to press the Egyptians to open the Rafah border crossing from Gaza to allow foreign nationals to leave.
“It is in no one’s interests — neither Israeli, Palestinian nor the wider Middle East — for others to be drawn into this conflict,” Cleverly said in a statement.
The foreign secretary is also expected to visit Qatar to discuss helping British nationals to leave the narrow strip of land between Israel and the Mediterranean. A stopover in Turkey would focus on the nation’s connections with Hamas’ leadership in order to prevent violence spiraling in the region.