UK, Australia call for ‘immediate cessation of fighting’ in Gaza

UK, Australia call for ‘immediate cessation of fighting’ in Gaza
UK, Australia call for ‘immediate cessation of fighting’ in Gaza

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - (from left) Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron, and Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps hold a media conference at Government House in Adelaide, South Australia, on March 22, 2024, as part of the annual Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (Aukmin). — AFP pic

ADELAIDE, March 22 — Britain and Australia today declared the need for an “immediate cessation of fighting” in Gaza, as diplomatic pressure built on Israel to rethink a planned ground assault on the southern city of Rafah.

Australian and UK foreign and defence ministers stressed the “urgency of an immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza to allow aid to flow and hostages to be released”, in a statement after talks in Adelaide.

The call came just hours before the United States was expected to put a resolution to the UN Security Council that would stress the need for “an immediate ceasefire”.

Washington has for months vetoed calls for resolutions including that language, shielding its closest Middle Eastern ally Israel from UN criticism as it avenges the attacks of October 7.


But there is concern in Washington about the human toll of Israel’s five-month-old Gaza offensive and the political fallout across the Middle East.

The operation has enraged the Arab world and claimed almost 32,000 lives, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

There are also suspicions in Washington that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the country’s longest-serving leader — may be dragging out the war for political reasons.


A UN resolution would heap pressure on him, and Israel, to temper the operations. But it is far from clear that any resolution would halt the war altogether.

Brushing aside critics, Netanyahu has vowed to intensify operations by moving into Rafah — hoping to rout the remnants of Hamas forces responsible for bloody October 7 raids into Israel that killed about 1,160 people, mostly civilians.

London’s call for an “immediate cessation of fighting” is a sign that Britain is also growing more anxious about the toll and impact of what Israel calls Operation Swords of Iron.

Britain and Australia said a cessation was now urgently needed to “allow aid to flow and hostages to be released as a crucial step toward a permanent, sustainable ceasefire.”

The pair called the humanitarian crisis in Gaza “catastrophic” and “called on Israel to allow immediate, safe, unimpeded and increased humanitarian relief to reach Palestinians in Gaza”.

Britain is also a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, along with the United States, Russia, China and France.

The Australian and UK foreign and defence ministers also condemned Russia’s “full-scale, illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine” and demanded that Russia withdraw its forces.

“Ministers called on all those with close relationships with Russia, particularly China, to refrain from helping Russia to continue its war in any way and convince Russia to end its illegal war,” the statement said. — AFP

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