Sunak promises to ‘always’ stand with Israel as Gaza faces imminent offensive

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak has promised to “always” 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.

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 a “co-ordinated” offensive in the Gaza Strip involving air, ground and naval forces.

In London, marchers carrying flags and flares chanted pro-Palestinian slogans as 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 the Metropolitan Police said 15 people were arrested over the course of the day and into the evening.

Nine officers were treated for minor injuries amid altercations between police and a small minority of protesters in Trafalgar Square after the main gathering broke up.

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

Condemning the “evil” 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 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, marching from The Mound, where the protest was held, and down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile 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.

Two were commercial flights, while one saw the Government use an RAF A400M transport plane.

British officials are working with the Egyptian authorities in an effort to facilitate British and dual nationals, as well as their spouses and children, to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Mr Sunak is expected to meet on Sunday with King Abdullah of Jordan in London to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The King has embarked on a European tour, his office said, to “rally international support to stop the war on Gaza”.