British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak landed in Israel on Thursday for a two-day visit to the Middle East to hold talks with regional leaders in an effort to prevent further escalation of conflict.
Sunak will also push for humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza amid the ongoing crisis in the region.
“I am in Israel, a nation in grief. I grieve with you and stand with you against the evil that is terrorism. Today, and always,” Sunak tweeted as he landed in Tel Aviv.
The British Indian leader’s visit to Israel follows that of US President Joe Biden as world leaders step up efforts to prevent the conflict with Hamas from spilling into the wider region following the unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 by Hamas militants in Gaza.
While in Israel, Sunak will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog to offer his condolences for the civilians killed in the conflict before embarking on a visit to other major capitals in the Middle East for further talks, reported PTI.
“Above all, I’m here to express my solidarity with the Israeli people. You have suffered an unspeakable, horrific act of terrorism and I want you to know that the United Kingdom and I stand with you,” he told reporters on his arrival in Israel, the report mentioned.
In an earlier statement, the British Prime Minister said the Tuesday attack on the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza should be a “watershed moment” for the world, it said.
"Every civilian death is a tragedy. And too many lives have been lost following Hamas's horrific act of terror,” he said, the report mentioned.
“The attack on Al Ahli Hospital should be a watershed moment for leaders in the region and across the world to come together to avoid further dangerous escalation of conflict. I will ensure the UK is at the forefront of this effort," he said, as per the report.
Sunak's visit comes as other European leaders also undertake similar tours of the Middle East in a show of Western unity, it said.
The US, UK, Germany, France and Italy form part of the so-called Quint, a diplomatic collective who have presented a united front over the actions of Hamas in Israel and Gaza.
Sunak’s visit coincides with that of his Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, who began a multi-country visit across the Middle East on Thursday night as part of efforts to help prevent the conflict from spreading across the region and to work towards a peaceful resolution.
Cleverly is planning to meet senior leaders in Egypt, Turkiye and Qatar over the next three days, where he will discuss coordination on efforts to avoid a spillover in violence which would devastate the wider region.
“It is in no one’s interests – neither Israeli, Palestinian nor the wider Middle East – for others to be drawn into this conflict. I am meeting counterparts from influential states in the region to push for calm and stability, facilitate humanitarian access into Gaza and work together to secure the release of hostages,” said Cleverly.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the trip has been planned to countries which are vital to international efforts to uphold regional stability, free hostages and allow humanitarian access to Gaza, with all three vital interlocutors in the Middle East.
The UK Foreign Secretary will discuss the urgent need for the Rafah crossing to open so that lifesaving aid can reach those who need it and for Hamas to release the hostages.
“The UK remains committed to mitigating the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and calling for international humanitarian law to be respected while standing alongside the people of Israel against the terrorist group Hamas,” the FCDO said.
The UK said its key focus is on pushing for an agreement on humanitarian access to Gaza, the release of British hostages and foreign nationals, and securing safe passage for British Nationals to leave Gaza.
Israel is likely to launch a possible ground invasion of Gaza against Hamas for its unprecedented attack on the country that killed more than 1,400 people. About 200 people are being held as captives in Gaza by Hamas militants.
In turn, Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed at least 2,778 people. Another 1,200 people across Gaza are believed to be buried under the rubble, alive or dead, health authorities in Gaza said.