LONDON (Reuters) – More than 100 Britons have been evacuated from Gaza and the government hopes more will be able to leave, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said on Sunday, as he urged the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
The Rafah crossing was opened for limited evacuations for three days earlier this week under a Qatari-brokered deal aimed at letting some foreign passport holders, their dependents and some wounded Gazans out of the enclave.
“Over 100 UK nationals were able to cross out of Gaza into Egypt through the Rafah crossing. It is very disappointing that the crossing was closed yesterday,” Dowden told the BBC.
“We are engaging very closely and we’re hopeful that the crossing will reopen again today enabling further UK nationals to leave.”
Britain has urged humanitarian pauses in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, but has not called for a full ceasefire, saying Israel has a right to protect itself after Hamas launched the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust last month.
At least a dozen Britons died in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, and Dowden said there were still 3 Britons unaccounted for, but he was unable to say whether they had been taken hostage.
Asked about comments by interior minister Suella Braverman that pro-Palestinian protests in London were “hate marches”, he said that there had been hateful conduct in some slogans that had been chanted, especially ones that can be interpreted as denying the right of Israel to exist.
“What the other people attending those marches need to ask themselves is: are they inadvertently standing alongside those people that are preaching hate,” he said.
Dowden added he had “grave concerns” over whether it was appropriate for more marches to take place next weekend, when commemorations for Armistice Day – the anniversary of the end of World War One – are also planned.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by David Evans)