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Israel has betrayed allies like Britain, says former Tory foreign minister

Sir Alan Duncan describes the killing of seven aid workers as a ‘tipping point in its collapsing reputation’ as global outrage grew over the attacks

Archie Mitchell
Wednesday 03 April 2024 14:58
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Krishnan Guru-Murthy clashes with Israeli spokesman over aid workers killed in Gaza

The killing of seven aid workers in Gaza is a “tipping point” for Israel’s international reputation and Britain should reconsider whether the country is an “ally”, a former Tory foreign minister has said.

Sir Alan Duncan, who served as a Conservative minister between 2010 and 2019, strongly condemned Israel’s killing of seven aid workers - three of whom were British - as “merciless”.

And he said the country has now “lost the support of the world” through its “deceit and callousness”.

Writing a hard-hitting piece for The Independent, Sir Alan said: “By annexing the West Bank, breaking international law, and now appearing to want to destroy Gaza as a place fit for humans, it is betraying the enlightened principles of its founders, and is not in any way behaving as a democracy should.

“We should salute our aid heroes by devoting our efforts to securing a Palestinian state. In the meantime, all responsible governments must urgently assess whether they can any longer regard Israel as an ally.”

The aid workers were killed when their convoy was struck by an Israeli missile (EPA)

Sir Alan’s intervention came amid a chorus of condemnation by world leaders outraged by the killings.

Labour piled pressure on the government to publish legal advice on whether Israel has breached international law, saying Britain must suspend arms sales if it has. Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said there must be “serious consequences” over the killings and warned that if the legal advice finds “a clear risk that UK arms might be used in a serious breach of international humanitarian law, it's time to suspend the sale of those arms”.

Rishi Sunak warned Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s war in Gaza is growing “increasingly intolerable”. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said the attack on aid workers is "absolutely unacceptable” and called for “full accountability”.

And US president Joe Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the killings, accusing Israel of not doing enough to protect Palestinian civilians.

“The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties,” Mr Biden said.

President Joe Biden said he was ‘outraged and heartbroken’ by the killings (AP)

Speaking to The Sun, Mr Sunak added: “I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu last night and was very clear with him that the situation is increasingly intolerable and what we urgently need to see is a through transparent investigation into what has happened, but also a dramatic increase in the amount of aid getting into Gaza.”

Israel’s highest-ranking military officer apologised for making a "grave mistake" after the seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers were killed.

British victims John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were part of the WCK security team.

They died alongside American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Australian national Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, who was the leader of the relief team, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.

Israel Palestinians (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

In the Independent article, Sir Alan reaffirmed the right of Israel to exist and condemned the rise in anti-semitism in the wake of the 7 October Hamas terror attacks.

But citing figures from the Hamas run health ministry, he added: “As the death toll in Gaza has risen from 1,000 to 10,000 to 30,000, Israel’s justification for this excess feels ever less convincing.

“Through their deceit and callousness, Israel has now lost the support of the world. Nobody any longer believes their statements.”

He highlighted the “obscenity” of Britain having to build a pontoon to supply aid to Gaza to tackle famine being caused by Israel. And he joined growing calls for Britain to suspend arms exports to Israel.

Sir Alan Duncan said Israel has ‘lost the support of the world’ through its ‘deceit and callousness’ (Getty Images)

Sir Alan said that even before the atrocity of 7 October, Mr Netanyahu was mounting “an attack on freedom and justice within his own country” while the IDF oversaw “ever more violent settler activity against Palestinians in the West Bank”.

“Even then, and indeed for many decades of occupation, the claim that the IDF adheres to international law has been running very thin,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Sunak telephoned Benjamin Netanyahu to say that “far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza”.

Rishi Sunak said the situation in Gaza is growing ‘increasingly intolerable’ (EPA)

The IDF attacked the aid convoy because officials believed an armed member of Hamas was travelling with the group, though no such person was travelling along with the aid workers, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.

An Israeli army source told the outlet that the strike wasn’t a matter of poor coordination, but rather because “every commander sets the rules for himself.”

The charity had just offloaded 100 tonnes of food aid from a barge which sailed from Cyprus when Israel attacked their vehicle convoy on Gaza’s coastal road in Deir al-Balah. WCK said on Tuesday it was pausing all work in the occupied Palestinian territory.

WCK said its convoy of three vehicles was hit despite the charity coordinating its movements with the Israeli military, and the fact that two of the cars hit were clearly marked as aid vehicles.

Foreign secretary David Cameron called on Israel to “immediately investigate”, adding that the government wanted “a full, transparent explanation of what happened”.

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