Gaza war: Rishi Sunak repeats call for pause, while referring to “unhealed” Israeli wounds

The United Kingdom on Sunday marked six months since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with new aid plans for Gaza. Also, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated his call for a “humanitarian pause” for the sake of children of the Gaza Strip.

UK aid for Gaza
UK armed forces moving aid for Gaza, to be delivered by land, air, and sea. Photo courtesy: X/@grantshapps

April 7 was the six-month milestone in the war that began on October 7, 2023, following the massive Hamas rocket attack on southern Israel, and the Hamas invasion of Israeli civilian settlements, where the Palestinian militant group massacred Israeli people and took hundreds of hostages. Many of those hostages are still in Hamas captivity.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK government announced the deployment of a Royal Navy ship to the Eastern Mediterranean and committed up to GBP 9.7 million for aid deliveries, logistical expertise, and equipment support for Gaza, such as forklift trucks and storage units.

On April 7, in a statement issued from 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “Today marks six months since the terrorist outrage of 7th October — the most appalling attack in Israel’s history, the worst loss of Jewish life since the Second World War. Six months later, Israeli wounds are still unhealed. Families still mourn and hostages are still held by Hamas.”

Gaza war footage from the Hamas stronghold of Khan Younis
Gaza war footage from the Hamas stronghold of Khan Younis, as captured by the Israeli military. Screenshot courtesy: X/@IDF

In the statement, he also referred to the plight of Palestinian civilians caught in the war. “And after six months of war in Gaza, the toll on civilians continues to grow — hunger, desperation, loss of life on an awful scale… The children of Gaza need a humanitarian pause immediately, leading to a long-term sustainable ceasefire. That is the fastest way to get hostages out and aid in, and to stop the fighting and loss of life.”

The FCDO said that the establishment of an international humanitarian maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza, supported by partner governments and the United Nations, was expected to be operational in early May.

Writing in The Sunday Times newspaper, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said that Britain’s support for Israel was “not unconditional”.

This follows the death of three British aid workers in Gaza; they were among the seven killed in an Israeli strike targeting Hamas, while delivering supplies on behalf of the World Central Kitchen charity. The strike was described by Israel as a “grave accident”, before it sacked two senior military officials.

“On this occasion, there is no doubt where the blame lies: Israel’s inquiry has already enumerated the inadequate processes and the unacceptable conduct of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) personnel involved. This must never happen again,” wrote Cameron.

“The situation in Gaza is dire and the prospect of famine is real. We remain committed to getting aid to those who so desperately need it. Along with the US, Cyprus and other partners, we are setting up a new temporary pier off the coast of Gaza to get aid in as quickly and securely as possible,” he said in a statement on the UK’s latest aid efforts.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps added, “A Royal Navy ship is now en route to the Eastern Mediterranean to support international efforts to get life-saving aid to Gaza.”

He said, “The [UK] Armed Forces are playing a central role in delivering aid, with the Royal Air Force recently completing five airdrops of food supplies for the people of Gaza. We are now going further, working with international partners to set up a humanitarian maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza. A new temporary pier on the coast of Gaza will be critical to supporting these efforts, by hosting cargo ships to deliver aid by sea.”

The name of the Royal Navy vessel was not revealed for security reasons, but the FCDO said that British military teams had been embedded with planning teams in the US operational headquarters in Tampa as well as in Cyprus for several weeks to jointly develop the safest and most effective maritime route.

The UK Hydrographic Office has also shared an analysis of the Gazan shore with US planners to help establish the temporary aid pier.

In recent weeks, the Royal Air Force is said to have delivered over 40 tonnes of food supplies, including water, flour, and baby formula, to Gaza.