Foreign Secretary welcomes safe passage out of Gaza for British citizens

Efforts are ongoing to keep the Rafah crossing open.

PA Reporters
Saturday 04 November 2023 00:01 GMT

Related video: James Cleverly calls for Israeli military to exercise ‘restraint’ to save Gaza’s civilians

Britain is pressing for a key border crossing to remain open after more UK nationals secured safe passage out of Gaza, according to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Around 100 British citizens were expected to be able to leave Gaza for Egypt on Friday, with the in-laws of Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf among those permitted to leave the territory through the Rafah crossing.

Mr Cleverly welcomed the “positive news” of getting a “number” of British nationals through the crossing, telling broadcasters: “We will continue to work to keep that crossing open, to liaise directly with Israel, with Egypt to ensure that as many British nationals can leave Gaza as possible.”

Around 200 Britons in Gaza have so far registered with the authorities, and along with their dependents the total number the UK is trying to secure passage for is thought to be in the low hundreds.

Aid agencies are battling a humanitarian crisis in Gaza with limited resources, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushing back against growing US pressure for a “humanitarian pause” in the war to protect civilians and allow more aid into the area.

More than 9,000 people are reported to have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7, when Israel launched its military response to the atrocities committed by Hamas.

Large-scale protests have taken place for several consecutive weeks in London, with demonstrators calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Another rally is due to be held for Palestine in Trafalgar Square from around 2.30pm on Saturday.

The Metropolitan Police has said there will be a “sharper focus” on using social media and face recognition to detect criminal behaviour at protests this weekend.

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, writing in the Times, said the lines between pro-Palestinian protesters and “those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas” have become “badly blurred”.

Sir Ephraim highlighted a Manchester protest with a banner showing support for “Palestinian resistance” and said there was no ambiguity in the words used.

He wrote: “Did every person who attended that march truly wish to associate themselves with acts of such barbarity? I sincerely hope that they did not.

“Nevertheless, it could not be clearer that, at the very least, the lines between those who wish only to advocate for the welfare of innocent Palestinians and those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas have become badly blurred.

“Those lines have remained blurred in the subsequent demonstrations, in which a minority have proudly displayed their extremism on their banners and in their chants, while the majority stand alongside them.

“Similar lines have become blurred in the sermons being given in a minority of mosques, inciting hatred and even violence against Jews, while the majority of prominent Muslim clerics are silent. They are blurred on university campuses where a minority of students and lecturers are declaring their support for ‘intifada’ while the majority appear indifferent.

“It is imperative that we redraw these lines of moral clarity without delay.”

Sir Ephraim is the 11th Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since the office was introduced in 1704.

He is traditionally seen as the figurehead of British Jews, but is only officially representative of the United Synagogue, the biggest wing of orthodox Judaism in the UK.

The Metropolitan Police said pro-Palestine protesters will be prevented from gathering outside the Israeli embassy over the weekend.

The force has imposed a condition under Section 14 of the Public Order Act to prevent demonstrators gathering near the country’s embassy in Kensington, west London.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley also responded to concerns from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman about the prospect of pro-Palestine protests on Armistice Day.

Mr Sunak said such a move would be “provocative and disrespectful”, amid reports that tens of thousands of demonstrators are planning to take to the streets to call for an immediate ceasefire on November 11.

Demonstration organisers have pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph war memorial – the focus of national remembrance events – is located.

Sir Mark, in a letter to Mr Sunak, said: “Like you, I recognise the profound significance of Armistice Day and the events that take place across the weekend in central London and in communities across London.

“We will take a robust approach and yesterday I set out our intent to use all the powers available to the MPS, including putting in place conditions, if required, to ensure events in Whitehall and the surrounding areas as well as other locations of significance across London are not undermined.”

Ms Braverman, writing on X, described any such protest as a “hate march”.

TV presenter and former England footballer Gary Lineker replied: “Marching and calling for a ceasefire and peace so that more innocent children don’t get killed is not really the definition of a hate march.”

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