Rishi Sunak today confirmed that the UK believes the hospital tragedy was caused by a missile launched from Gaza.
The PM gave the assessment of the British authorities as he swiped at the ‘rush to judgment’ in blaming Israel for the episode. The BBC has been heavily criticised for its initial coverage of the blast.
Making a statement to MPs following his tour of the MIddle East last week, Mr Sunak warned that Israel is ‘still under attack’, insisting Hamas cannot be allowed to stay in control of Gaza.
But he cautioned that humanitarian protections must be maintained, revealing that the UK is sending another £20million in civilian aid to help Palestinians.
He said the population of the area were also victims of Hamas, but rejected calls from some left-wing Labour MPs and the SNP for an immediate ceasefire.
Mr Sunak said that Israel was making every effort to avoid innocent casualties but had ‘suffered an appalling act of terror’. ‘It has the right to defend itself and ensure that something like this does not happen again,’ he added.
Mr Sunak added: ‘Hamas care more about their paymasters in Iran than the children they hide behind.’
‘So let me be clear, there is no scenario where Hamas can be allowed to control Gaza or any part of the Palestinian Territories.
‘Hamas is not only a threat to Israel but to many others in the region.
All the leaders I met agree that this is a watershed moment. It’s time to set the region on a better path.’
Keir Starmer voiced solidarity with Israel, saying the terror attacks had been the ‘darkest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust’.
The PM gave the assessment of the British authorities as he swiped at the ‘rush to judgment’ in blaming Israel for the episode
An explosion at the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday was reported to have killed hundreds of people. Pictured is the aftermath of the explosion
In the immediate aftermath of the blast, correspondent Jon Donnison said it was ‘hard to see’ what else could have happened at the al-Ahli Hospital other than an ‘Israeli air strike’
The strike came last Tuesday amid a bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ incursion into Israel.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas said after the explosion that the damage to the hospital came from an Israeli air strike.
But Israel categorically denied the claims, pinning the blame on a misfired rocket aimed at Israeli territory fired by the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad from inside Gaza near the hospital.
And it produced a wealth of material to support the position, with experts agreeing that was the most likely scenario.
The BBC has conceded it was wrong to speculate that a rocket that hit a Gaza hospital was an ‘Israeli air strike’ – although it argued the coverage as a whole was balanced.
Israel and UK ministers have already voiced fury at the corporation for refusing to call Hamas terrorists.
Mr Sunak said today: ‘As I indicated last week, we have taken care to look at all the evidence currently available.
‘I can now share our assessment with the House. On the basis of the deep knowledge and analysis of our intelligence and weapons experts, the British Government judges that the explosion was likely caused by a missile or part of one that was launched from within Gaza towards Israel.
‘The misreporting of this incident had a negative effect in the region, including on a vital US diplomatic effort, and the tensions here at home.’
The PM stressed that missiles had been raining down on Israel since the October 7 terrorist attacks.
‘Hundreds of rockets are launched at their towns and cities every day. And Hamas still holds around 200 hostages, including British citizens,’ he said.
‘In Jerusalem, I met some of the relatives who are suffering unbearable torment. Their pain will stay with me for the rest of my days.
‘I’m doing everything in my power and working all our partners to get their loved ones home. So in my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog, I told them once again that we stand resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror.
Footage was released as evidence that a rocket from Gaza towards Israel had misfired and landed nearby
‘I stressed again the need to act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians.’
Mr Sunak said the UK was boosting the existing £10million of aid for civilians in Gaza to £20million.
He added: ‘I recognise that the Palestinian people are suffering terribly. Over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed in this conflict. They are also the victims of Hamas, who embed themselves in the civilian population. Too many lives have already been lost, and the humanitarian crisis is growing. I went to the region to address these issues directly.’
The PM reiterated that the UK still supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine issue.
‘The truth is that in recent years, energy has moved into other avenues like the Abraham Accords and normalisation talks with Saudi Arabia,’ he said.
‘We support those steps absolutely and believe that they can bolster wider efforts. But we must never lose sight of how essential the two-state solution is. So we will work together with out international partners to bring renewed energy and creativity to this effort.’
He added: ‘It will rely on establishing more effective governance for Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank, it will also mean challenging actions that undercut legitimate aspirations for Palestinian statehood.’
Mr Sunak urged moderation in language from media and politicians regarding the Middle East crisis.
‘This is a moment for great care and caution but also for moral clarity. Hope and humanity must win out against the scourge of terrorism and aggression,’ he said.
‘The 7th of October attack was driven by hatred but it was also driven by Hamas’s fear that a new equilibrium might be emerging in the Middle East, one that would leave old divisions and offer hope of a better, more secure, more prosperous way forward.
‘It is a same motivation that drives Putin’s war on Ukraine, the fear of Ukraine’s emergence as a modern, thriving democracy and a desire to pull it back into some imperialist fantasy of the past. Putin will fail and so will Hamas.
‘We must keep alive that vision of a better future against those who seek to destroy it. Together with our partners that is what we will do.’
Responding, Sir Keir told the Commons: ‘The brutal attack in Israel just over two weeks ago was the darkest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. Two weeks of grief for the innocent people who lost brothers, sisters, children, two weeks of torture for the families whose loved ones were taken hostage by Hamas.’
Sir Keir said there was a ‘small glimmer of light’ over the weekend with the release of two US hostages, adding: ‘But Hamas still holds hundreds more. Sons, daughters, mums, dads still missing, innocent people who could – if Hamas willed it – be released immediately.
‘But they remain hostage because Hamas wants the chaos of war, Hamas wants Jews to suffer, Hamas wants the Palestinian people to share in the pain because the Palestinian people are not their cause, peace is not their aim, the dignity of human life – Jew or Muslim – means absolutely nothing to them.
‘In light of their barbarism, Israel has the right to defend herself. Yes, to get their hostages home but also to defeat Hamas so nobody need suffer like this again.
‘And that we might once more see a road to a lasting peace, a Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel. This operation can and must be done within international law.’