More than 20 aid agencies and religious organisations have written a letter to the Prime Minister calling on the UK to demand that Israel stops its offensive into Rafah.
The organisations, which include CAFOD, Christian Aid and Quakers in Britain say they are losing confidence in ministers in the UK and accuse them of risking "further moral complicity" in the ongoing casualties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The letter calls for an immediate ceasefire and says the government should suspend all arms export licenses to Israel.
Janet Symes who is Head of Region, Middle East for CAFOD told Premier:
“We’re calling on the UK Government to push as hard as they can to use all diplomatic measures available to them to ensure that there is an immediate and permanent ceasefire. It's absolutely essential that the fighting is halted. But not just for a short period of time, it really needs to be halted for a long period of time.
“While the UK is maybe not able to be as influential as the US, the UK certainly has a voice in the international community. The UK can engage with others and encourage others to also take that position. They have an ability to have conversations with the US as well and to exert pressure that way. We know that the UK is heavily involved in diplomatic efforts at the moment, so we're urging that they step up those efforts as far as possible, and for them to call on others to step up their measures too.”
The letter comes as the southern Gazan city of Rafah has come under heavy Israeli air strikes in recent days, with a number of casualties reported. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered troops to prepare to expand its ground operation into the region to defeat Hamas gunmen hiding in the city. More than a million people are believed to be sheltering in Rafah, many of whom have been displaced from other areas in Gaza because of the conflict.
The letter asks ‘Will the UK continue its current path, which each day further is enabling Israel’s actions with impunity? Will the UK risk further moral complicity in the ongoing death from Israeli attacks?
‘We call on the UK Government to do all it can to persuade the Government of Israel to finally change course. Over a million people in Rafah are at grave risk. We know from history what happens when states stand by and do nothing.’
Janet Symes added:
“Violence is not a way to resolve this situation. The only way in the long term that Palestinians and Israelis can live in security and peace is by a negotiated settlement. We absolutely condemned the actions on October 7th by Hamas. Those actions were absolutely horrific. But that does not mean that the population of Gaza should have to pay with their lives.
We've already seen almost 30,000 killed and 11,500 children. This just is not feasible and if the bombardment and grand offensive is to be intensified, those figures are going to get worse and worse. There must be an alternative way. From our experience negotiated settlements are the way forward. And the way to be able to create the conditions for that is through a ceasefire.”
As well as calling for an immediate ceasefire, the letter also calls for the UK to suspend all arms export licenses and any other forms of military support to Israel with immediate effect. It says the UK should also ensure Israel fully implements International Court of Justice orders relating to the conflict.