Britain does not support ‘major’ Rafah operation, Lord Cameron says

The foreign secretary added, however, that a US-style weapons freeze would ‘make Hamas stronger’


Men ride in the back of a truck loaded with furniture and other items as they flee an anticipated Israeli assault (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

Britain does not support a “major” Israeli operation in Rafah because it does not believe there is a plan to protect civilians, the foreign secretary has said.

Asked on Sunday if the UK would halt weapons sales to Israel if the IDF do enter the city on the southern border of the Gaza strip, Lord Cameron said: “For there to be a major offensive in Rafah, there would have to be an absolutely clear plan about how you save lives, how you move people out the way, how you make sure they’re fed, you make sure that they have medicine and shelter and everything.

“We have seen no such plan… so we don’t support an offensive in that way.”

After seizing a border crossing with Egypt last week, Israel has told residents of the city to move to an "expanded humanitarian zone" nearby.

Rafah, which had swollen with hundreds of thousands of people displaced from the north of Gaza, has now seen over 150,000 evacuate in anticipation of the IDF assault.

US President Joe Biden has said he will cut off arms sales to Israel if the invasion goes ahead.

Lord Cameron said Britain "is in a totally different position" to America, though.

"The last time I was urged to do that [cut off weapons], I didn't do that and just a few days later there was a brutal attack by Iran on Israel,” he said. “I think it would have sent an entirely wrong message."

To avoid an attack on Rafah, Lord Cameron said, Hamas should accept a hostage deal.

"Just to simply announce today that we will change our approach on arms exports, it would make Hamas stronger and it would make a hostage deal less likely.”

Israel’s track record in delivering aid to Gaza had not been acceptable, however, he added.

"We haven't given Israel a clean bill of health – Israel's performance on aid has not been good enough."

Netanyahu’s government are now, “permanently on notice.”

Britain will step up efforts to get humanitarian relief into Gaza, Lord Cameron told the BBC, but deploying troops would be a mistake.

"We are playing a very full part in this in moving aid from Cyprus to either Ashdod Port or onto the pier into the beach in Gaza," he said.

"It will be a British Royal Navy ship - RFA Cardigan Bay - which will be the sort of logistic hub off the pier.

"But the view the prime minister took was that putting British boots onto the beach is not a good move. British boots on the ground is a risk we should not take."

Reports from Hamas that Nadav Popplewell, a British-Israeli hostage seized on October 7, had been killed in an airstrike could not be confirmed, Lord Cameron said.

"We are trying to work out what has happened, we don't want to say anything before we get better information."

He added: "When you see what Hamas are prepared to do you just realise the terrible, dreadful, inhuman people we are dealing with.”

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