UK halting weapon shipments to Israel would make Hamas stronger, says David Cameron

The United Nations has said there is ‘no safe space’ left in Gaza as Palestinians flee from Rafah ahead of the imminent Israeli offensive

Tom Watling
Sunday 12 May 2024 19:24 BST
David Cameron was quizzed on Gaza and sending arms to Israel
David Cameron was quizzed on Gaza and sending arms to Israel (Sunday with Kuenssberg/BBC)

David Cameron says he is “not really interested” in halting the UK’s weapons shipments to Israel despite the US suspension earlier this week.

His comments came as his US counterpart, Anthony Blinken, said Israel lacked a “credible plan” to protect some 1.4 million Palestinian civilians trapped in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, ahead of an imminent Israeli ground offensive.

Mr Blinken also warned an Israeli attack could create an insurgency by failing to kill all Hamas fighters in the southern Gazan city.

Ahead of the offensive - Israeli tanks have already entered through the nearest crossings into Rafah, where they have now split the city into sections ready to invade - both the US and UK have faced calls to cease arming Israel.

The US announced it had suspended at least one shipment of weapons to Israel, including 1,800 900 kg bombs, earlier this week, before US President Joe Biden said he would halt further shipments if Israel proceeded with its plan to attack Rafah.

But Lord Cameron, speaking on Sunday morning, remained firm that the UK would not follow the US lead.

An Israeli tank moves near the Israeli-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israel (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Though he said the UK does “not support” an Israeli offensive in Rafah, because he has not seen a plan from the Israelis concerning how “to protect people”, Lord Cameron insisted that halting weapons shipments was a needless political exercise.

“Just to simply announce today that we will change our approach on arms exports, it would make Hamas stronger and it would make a hostage deal less likely,” he said, adding that he was “not really interested in message sending” through political moves like ending weapons sales.

He pointed to the fact that the UK’s weapons shipments to Israel account for just one per cent of their total military support, compared to 68 per cent for the US.

He said he wanted instead to focus on “hammering away every day” on getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The United Nations’ human rights chief warned on Sunday that many of those residing in Rafah have nowhere to go as he emphasised the worsening humanitarian situation in the Strip.

Israel has ordered those remaining in the area to move away but Volker Turk said there was “no safe place” left in Gaza.

More than 300,000 Palestinians in Rafah have already fled to camps in central and western Gaza, but those areas have been hit by airstrikes since the evacuation notices were given.

A boy looks on as Palestinians prepare to flee Rafah after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city (REUTERS)

“The latest evacuation orders affect close to a million people in Rafah,” he said in a statement. “So where should they go now? There is no safe place in Gaza!

“These exhausted, famished people, many of whom have been displaced many times already, have no good options.”

He said a full-scale offensive could have a “catastrophic impact … including the possibility of further atrocity crimes”.

“I can see no way that the latest evacuation orders, much less a full assault, in an area with an extremely dense presence of civilians, can be reconciled with the binding requirements of international humanitarian law and with the two sets of binding provisional measures ordered by the international court of justice,” he said.

The UN warned just yesterday that much of the food supplies for southern Gaza would run out by the end of the weekend while Israel keeps the two border crossings in the region closed.

Both the Rafah and the Kerem Shalom crossings, the former from Egypt and the latter from Israel into Gaza, have been vital conduits for humanitarian aid.

But after Israeli tanks rolled through the crossings at the start of the week, they have been closed, meaning those in Gaza have been left to survive on what had already been delivered to the Strip.

The Israeli military announced on Sunday it had opened a new humanitarian aid crossing in coordination with the United States.

The crossing, called ‘Western Erez’, was opened in the northern Gaza Strip in order to transfer humanitarian aid, the military said in a statement.

But it is unclear when the crossing will become fully operational and how much aid will be delivered through the crossing.

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