David Cameron urged to vote for Israel-Hamas ceasefire as dozens more Palestinians killed

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in the past 10 weeks by Israeli attacks

Tom Watling
Tuesday 19 December 2023 12:11 GMT
David Cameron arrives

A former UK military general has called on David Cameron to demand an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas at an upcoming United Nations vote.

As global pressure on Israel to halt its military operations continue to grow, the UN security council will hold a crunch vote on Tuesday over an Arab resolution for peace in the region.

Dozens more Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes overnight as Israel continued its aerial bombardment of Gaza alongside its ground invasion. A key hospital in the northern half of the enclave was also raided, sparking health concerns for those in the area.

Ahead of the UN security council vote, a letter co-written by Gen Lord David Richards, a former head of the armed forces, as well as six former UK ambassadors, urged David Cameron to not aid the US in blocking ceasefire calls.

The original UN vote was due to take place on Monday but it was postponed after the US said it could not support a reference to a “cessation of hostilities” but might accept a call for a “suspension of hostilities”.

Excavators dig through the rubble of a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP via Getty Images)

More than 19,400 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. It claims that most of the dead are women and minors, and that thousands more are buried under rubble.

The Israeli operations in Gaza have been a retaliation to a Hamas attack on Israeli soil on 7 October which killed 1,200 people and saw more than 240 Israelis taken hostage. More than half of the hostages remain in Gaza.

The last time the UN security council voted on a ceasefire resolution on 9 December, the US opposed the motion while the UK abstained.

“The UK does not have to follow America’s lead – particularly when US public and opinion is far from united,” the letter read.

“We implore the United Kingdom to once again work with all members of the UN security council to ensure a renewed resolution for an immediate ceasefire is brought forward, and then to vote in favour of it.”

The letter also described the failure to call for a ceasefire as “strategically ill-advised and morally indefensible”.

The passing of a UN security council resolution for a ceasefire is binding though it is unclear if Israel will honour the call should it be made.

Nevertheless, it would amount to an escalation of rhetoric from Israel’s allies.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin (L) and Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv (AFP via Getty Images)

But the US defence secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star head of the Pentagon’s Central Command overseeing US military operations in the Middle East, deferred to his Israeli counterparts when he met them in Tel Aviv on Monday.

When asked about the timeline of Israel’s campaign in Gaza, he said: “This is Israel’s operation, and I’m not here to dictate timelines or terms.”

While he did stress the importance of protecting Palestinian civilians, he reiterated that Israel has the right to defend herself, referring to the destruction of Hamas, the stated aim of Israel’s war cabinet.

The US is among five members of the 15-strong UN security council that has the permanent power to veto resolutions. The UK, France, Russia and China also hold those powers.

Earlier this week, Lord Cameron and his German counterpart called for a “strategic ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas.

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