Monday, 4 March, 2024

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UK hopeful Rafah crossing will reopen to allow Britons out of Gaza says Dowden

UK hopeful Rafah crossing will reopen to allow Britons out of Gaza, says Dowden

The UK Government is “hopeful” that the Rafah crossing will reopen on Sunday to allow more British nationals to leave Gaza, the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Oliver Dowden said Britain was working to ensure civilians could exit the besieged territory “as rapidly as possible”, with Foreign Office officials looking to “facilitate them in getting to the border and crossing” over to Egypt.

He told the BBC: “We stand ready to support British nationals.”

The Rafah crossing is the only route out of Gaza for foreign nationals and the sole entry point for incoming aid.

Britons were among those documented on an approved list to pass through the key border post on Saturday but many reported being turned away in an apparent row between Israel and the Palestinians over evacuating injured patients.

The total number the UK is trying to secure passage for is thought to be in the low hundreds, with as many as 200 British nationals and their dependents in Gaza registered with the authorities to leave.

Mr Dowden told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “It is the case that over 100 UK nationals (have been) able to cross out of Gaza into Egypt through the Rafah crossing.

“It is very disappointing that the crossing was closed yesterday.

“We are engaging very closely and we are hopeful that the crossing will reopen again today, enabling further UK nationals to leave the situation.”

The senior Conservative said it is a “very difficult situation in Gaza”, with “Hamas terrorists hiding among the civilian population and a conflict going on in a very small area”.

He added: “The first thing we are doing is trying to make sure we get the Rafah crossing open again and I’m hopeful we will make progress on that today.

“Secondly, we are seeking to have these temporary pauses to allow humanitarian aid in and to get our people out.”

The fighting between Israel and Hamas has continued into a fifth week, with the violence having been ignited by Hamas’s bloody raids on October 7 that killed 1,400 people and saw about 240 people taken hostage.

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Israeli warplanes struck the Maghazi refugee camp in the Strip early on Sunday, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens of others.

The Health Ministry has said more than 9,400 Palestinians have been killed in the enclave in nearly a month of war.

Israel has continued with its offensive, which has included sending ground troops into the north of Gaza, to crush the territory’s Hamas rulers.

The continued incursion and air strikes come despite appeals from the likes of the United States and the UK for a suspension of the fighting to get aid to desperate civilians.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said there was a “danger of Israel going too far” in its retaliation and spoke about the need to better “protect innocent lives”.

He told the BBC: “The right to self-defence is not a blank cheque, as Keir Starmer argued this week, and Israel must meet its obligations under international law.”

Mr Healey said “judgments will be taken in time” on whether Tel Aviv has followed international rules during the conflict.

He said Labour continued to support the UK Government’s position of pushing for a pause in the fighting and was not calling for a ceasefire, despite pressure mounting internally for leader Sir Keir to do so.

Speaking to GB News, Mr Healey said a ceasefire is “not the right way because the best chance of getting what everybody wants to see, a reduction in the civilian casualties and alleviation of the Palestinian suffering, is by working for humanitarian pauses”.

The Arab League’s assistant secretary general said a “political solution” is the only way to resolve the war.

Speaking from Cairo, Hossam Zaki said implementing a security solution would not be effective to end the “cycle of violence”.

He told the BBC some of the acts of what he called the “Palestinian resistance” were “simply indefensible”, but added that “most of what the Israelis are doing” was also “unacceptable”.

“The occupation has plagued the Palestinian existence for more than half a century. We need to put an end to that – this is the only way to put an end to violence,” he added.

The soaring death toll in Gaza has sparked growing international anger, with tens of thousands taking to UK streets on Saturday to demand an immediate ceasefire.

The Metropolitan Police said a total of 29 people were arrested in London, including for inciting racial hatred, other racially motivated crimes, violence and assaulting a police officer.

Mr Dowden expressed his “grave concerns” that a pro-Palestinian protest on Armistice Day on Saturday November 11 could spill over into “violence and instability” while commemorative events are taking place in central London.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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