UK ministers continue to resist calls for a Middle East ceasefire

The UK is “relying on” a humanitarian pause in the Middle East conflict to get support in Gaza, a minister said, but the government continues to resist calls for a ceasefire.

Gillian Keegan said we “need to ensure” there is a break in the fighting to get aid and allow British citizens to leave the 25-mile bombed strip.

UK Border Force teams have been deployed in Egypt to help if the Rafah border crossing is opened for people to leave.

Israel only in recent days agreed to allow aid through the crossing, having besieged the Hamas-run area, preventing essentials such as water, food and fuel from reaching more than two million Palestinians.

Yes, we rely on there being a pause and the pause being observed

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan

Cairo reportedly blamed the Israeli shelling around Rafah on not being open for foreign nationals to cross as the country continues its opposition to the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas.

Asked why ministers would not call for a cessation of hostilities, Ms Keegan told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the government would not want to “cross that line that tells Israel it has anything but the right to defend itself of”.

“Hamas has created this situation and Hamas is now being integrated into the Palestinian population,” he said.

The education secretary said facilitating any humanitarian pause would itself be “very difficult” and the UK would be “dependent” on it being adhered to.

“It's operationally very difficult and that's why we sent an aid plane, that's why we sent Border Force, that's why we have people there, our International Development Secretary is working with a lot of people in the region to make sure we're ready to be able to we're bringing that help to the right place,” he said.

“But yes, we rely on there being a pause and the pause being observed.”

More than 80 MPs have urged the government to call for an end to the violence.

The Labor mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced on Friday that he was also calling for a ceasefire as the humanitarian crisis looked set to “get even worse”.

However, the prime minister's official spokesman told reporters that the ceasefire “would only benefit Hamas.”

The Foreign Office is in contact with around 200 British nationals in Gaza, the Prime Minister said.

It comes as the Israeli military launched a second ground assault on Gaza in as many days, hitting targets on the outskirts of Gaza City.

More than 7,000 Palestinians have already been killed in the war, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, and even greater losses could occur in the event of a full-scale invasion aimed at crushing Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and survived four previous wars. with Israel.

More than 1,400 people in Israel, mostly civilians, were killed in the initial Hamas attack, while Hamas is also holding hundreds of hostages, according to the Israeli government.

In a phone call Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Rishi Sunak said the principle of a “rules-based order” with peace and stability must be protected both in Ukraine and in the Middle East.

A Downing Street spokesman said in a reading after the speech: “The Prime Minister underlined the UK's long-term and unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and reiterated that the conflict in the Middle East will not change that.

“The principle of a rules-based order, in which people could live in peace and stability, had to be protected both in Ukraine and in the Middle East,” the prime minister added.