UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday evening headed to Israel on a two-day visit to the wider region as part of a procession of foreign leaders visiting the country in an effort to prevent the conflict from widening.
(Bloomberg) — UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday evening headed to Israel on a two-day visit to the wider region as part of a procession of foreign leaders visiting the country in an effort to prevent the conflict from widening.
The premier will land early on Thursday, holding meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, before heading to “a number of other regional capitals,” his office said in an emailed statement. It didn’t say what other countries the premier intends to visit.
With the death toll mounting in Gaza amid an Israeli bombardment that followed Hamas’s brutal incursion into southern Israel earlier in the month, western leaders are seeking to avoid the conflict sucking in other countries, especially after a blast at a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday killed hundreds of Palestinians. Israel and Hamas have issued rival claims about who was responsible.
“The attack on Al Ahli Hospital should be a watershed moment for leaders in the region and across the world to come together to avoid further dangerous escalation of conflict,” Sunak said in the statement. “I will ensure the UK is at the forefront of this effort.”
Sunak’s visit follows others by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday and US President Joe Biden on Wednesday. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he will travel to the region “as soon as I consider that we have a useful agenda and very concrete actions to drive forward.”
Earlier Wednesday Sunak said British intelligence is working rapidly to establish who was behind the blast at the Gaza hospital. Speaking in Parliament, he urged MPs not to “rush to judgment.”
Hamas — designated a terrorist group by the US, UK and European Union — blames Israel for the explosion, while Israel’s army says the hospital was struck in a failed missile attack by Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group. Anti-Israel protests broke out in several major cities around the region.
On Wednesday Biden appeared to side with Netanyahu, telling him it “appears as though it was done by the other team, not you.” Sunak, by contrast, said the UK was yet to attribute blame.
Meanwhile UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is set to begin a tour of the Middle East, starting in Egypt on Thursday. He will press the Egyptians to open the Rafah border crossing from Gaza to allow foreign nationals to leave. Cleverly is also expected to visit Qatar to discuss helping British nationals to leave the narrow strip of land between Israel and the Mediterranean. A stopover in Turkey will focus on the nation’s connections with Hamas’s leadership in order to prevent violence spiraling in the region.
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