London urges Israel to give priority to protecting civilians and avoiding escalation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

AA/London/Ahmed Gurhan Kartal

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday that the United Kingdom had urged Israel to “exercise restraint in carrying out its operations and avoid any further escalation in the West Bank and Gaza.”

Responding to questions from the House of Commons Liaison Committee, Sunak said the UK supported Israel’s right to self-defence, but that “any military operation must prioritize the protection of civilians”.

The British Prime Minister was responding to a question from Alicia Kerns, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who fears, “We are on the cusp of the Gaza crisis in 2023.”

Asked about the UK’s intention to raise the issue of illegal settlements in the UN Security Council when it assumes the presidency on July 3, Sunak said he “will continue to focus on what is happening in Ukraine, namely the illegal invasion of Russia.”

With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rishi Sunak said that the United Kingdom affirmed that “the settlements are illegal under international law, and we have said that they constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten the viability of the ‘two-state solution’.”

He added, “We have been in constant dialogue with Israel and … with (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu for some time, and we have made it clear over and over again that we oppose any settlement expansion and we have contacted the Israeli government to abandon this policy and put an end to it.”

On Monday, the Israeli army launched its largest military operation in Jenin in more than 20 years, killing at least 10 Palestinians and wounding more than 100 others, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The Israeli attack comes amid rising tensions in the occupied West Bank in recent months, in the wake of repeated Israeli raids on Palestinian towns.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, approximately 190 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year. At least 25 Israelis were killed in various attacks during the same period.

An estimated 700,000 Israeli settlers live in 164 settlements and 116 outposts in the occupied West Bank.

All Jewish settlements located in the occupied territories are illegal under international law.

* Translated from English by Mourad Belhaj

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