Too many civilians killed in Israel-Hamas conflict, UK PM says

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday too many civilian lives had been lost in the Israel-Hamas conflict and he repeated his call for a “sustainable ceasefire” to allow the release of hostages.

Sunak’s spokesman said a sustainable ceasefire was one that could last but he added that Britain was not advocating a general and immediate ceasefire.

With intense ground fighting having expanded this month across the Gaza Strip and a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding, some leaders have begun to toughen their language over the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths.

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden said Israel was losing support over its “indiscriminate” bombing of Gaza and that its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, should change strategy.

Sunak on Monday again said Britain believed Israel had the right to defend itself following the Hamas attack on southern Israel in October that triggered the conflict.

“But it must do that in accordance with humanitarian law,” he told reporters in Scotland.

“It’s clear that too many civilian lives have been lost. And that’s why we’ve been consistent…in calling for a sustainable ceasefire, whereby hostages are released, rockets stop being fired into Israel by Hamas and we continue to get more aid in.”

Britain abstained in a vote last week in the United Nations General Assembly that overwhelmingly called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

Sunak’s spokesman said on Monday: “Right now we want to see immediate humanitarian pauses and we want them to lead to a sustainable ceasefire as soon as possible.”

“We do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate ceasefire, hoping it somehow becomes permanent, is the way forward.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Sachin Ravikumar, Editing by Angus MacSwan)