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UK urges new truces as Gaza ceasefire ends with new Israeli bombardment

UK urges new truces as Gaza ceasefire ends with new Israeli bombardment

Britain urged a return to “sustained” truces as Israel on Friday resumed its bombardment of Gaza following a week-long pause to allow hostages out.

At the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, Rishi Sunak met Israeli President Isaac Herzog as well as the leaders of Egypt, Qatar and Jordan.

Egypt and Qatar have been mediating in the crisis. The PM and Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani "deeply regretted the collapse of the pause", No10 said in a statement.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that Hamas had demonstrated that it couldnot be a partner for peace and could have no future in Gaza,” it added.

Mr Sunak said ahead of the bilateral talks: “We’ve been consistent that we want to see sustained humanitarian pauses so that more aid can get into the people of Gaza but also the hostages can come out.

“Those are critical ingredients. And as we’ve said everyone needs to adhere to the terms of these agreements,” he said.

Travelling with the PM and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron in Dubai, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Claire Coutinho said: “I think it’s first important to say that I think the truce was actually broken by Hamas.”

Hostages who were abducted by Hamas gunmen during the October 7 attack on Israel are handed over to the International Red Cross on Thursday (via REUTERS)
Hostages who were abducted by Hamas gunmen during the October 7 attack on Israel are handed over to the International Red Cross on Thursday (via REUTERS)

A No10 spokeswoman refused to endorse Ms Coutinho's comment blaming Hamas, stressing it remained a "sensitive" situation on the ground, with the fate of British hostages also in the mix.

Relatives of UK citizens being held captive in Gaza this week accused the Government of ignoring their plight. The Foreign Office insists it is doing its best to get them out, but declines to say how many are involved.

The fighting resumed as Israel accused Hamas of reneging on a deal for further hostage releases on Thursday. Some 240 people were taken captive when the militants massacred 1,200 people during raids into southern Israel on October 7.

Newly released prisoners parade on the shoulders of supporters during a welcome ceremony in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank (AFP via Getty Images)
Newly released prisoners parade on the shoulders of supporters during a welcome ceremony in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank (AFP via Getty Images)

At least 50 Palestinians were killed - mostly women and children - and dozens more wounded in Israeli strikes in the hours after the truce expired, Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry said on Friday. It says more than 15,000 people have been killed overall by the Israeli bombardment.

But according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, Hamas did not release all women hostages as agreed and also launched rockets at Israel.

"With the resumption of fighting we emphasise: The Israeli government is committed to achieving the goals of the war - to free our hostages, to eliminate Hamas, and to ensure that Gaza will never pose a threat to the residents of Israel," it said.

The Israeli army said on Friday that it had published a map to advise Gazans of safe areas for their evacuation.

Its statement linked to an Israeli army website in Arabic showing an Evacuation Zone Map. It said an Arabic-language video had been released on social networks and the map was being distributed by the army in Gaza.

"This divides the territory of the Gaza Strip into areas according to recognizable areas to enable the residents of Gaza to orient themselves and understand the instructions, and to evacuate from specific places for their safety if required," the statement said.

But graphic testimony of the bombing’s impact came from one hospital in southern Gaza, where many thousands of civilians have complied with Israel’s order to flee the focus of military operations in the north of the Palestinian coastal strip.

An Israeli strike had hit “50-100 metres” away from Nasr hospital shortly after the truce expired at 7:00 am local time this morning, according to James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s agency Unicef.

“It’s ambulances piling through, there’s people running with stretchers,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme from the scene, adding that the “wildly overcrowded” hospital was unable to take in any more battlefield casualties.

“It’s perplexing and utterly disheartening to be honest, the inhumanity that the go-ahead has been given for these attacks on children to recommence,” he said, describing the plight of one three-year-old boy called Ahmed who had lost his right leg and had not spoken for days.

But Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Peter Lerner accused Unicef of failing to speak out about the Israeli children taken by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists last month.

“Children are bearing the brunt of this war, for sure,” he said on the Today programme.

“Whether it’s the children of Israelis that are being held hostage by Hamas, or the Palestinian children that are paying the price for Hamas’s concept of operations - where they put their positions, where they put their munitions, where they launch rockets from.”

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his third visit to the Middle East since war began on October 7, told Mr Netanyahu that Israel's campaign in southern Gaza must not repeat the massive loss of civilian life and displacement seen during its offensive in the north.

Mr Blinken said he had laid out clear steps for Israel to minimise civilian casualties but did not say whether he was assured the steps would be taken. Public pressure has been rising on Israel from demonstrations worldwide.