Raab says Israel "can always count on us"

Hamas says it attacked Jerusalem to "send a message" over al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah evictions


British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in Jerusalem today that Israel “can always count on us.”

He was affirming British support for Israel in the aftermath of the conflict with Hamas. "I'm here as a friend — as you know — that’s a great supporter of Israel,” he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting.

Mr Raab said he was keen to talk with the prime minister on “the bilateral relationship but also how we move things forward elsewhere.” He added: “You can always count on us.”

He announced after the meeting that they discussed the “importance of a durable ceasefire in Gaza and the need to fight antisemitism.” He said the UK-Israel relationship was “flourishing."

The UK is "committed to working with regional leaders to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and forge lasting peace,” he added.

In a meeting with Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Mr Raab heard of Israeli dismay over the fact that Hamas is holding two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two soldiers. He was also briefed on Israel’s assessment of its strategic gains in the latest fighting. 

Mr Raab went from Jerusalem to Ramallah, where he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. 

With the President he reaffirmed British support for the two-state solution as the “only“ route to a reliable Israeli-Palestinian peace and with the Foreign Minister he  said that the UK has pledged £3.2m in emergency aid to for Gaza, donated via the United Nations. 

He reiterated UK support for the Palestinian people and expressed condolences for civilians killed in recent hostilities.

As Palestinian Authority leaders talked with Raab, leaders of Hamas were engaging in fighting talk. 

The recent attacks by Hamas were just a “practice” for what the terrorist organisation will wreak on Israel if it deems the country to have violated Arab rights at the al-Aqsa Mosque, a top leader declared. 

“Let the occupation know that what happened was just a practice of what would be if it tried to play with fire in the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza at a press conference today, according to Arabic-language media. 

He stated that Hamas took a deliberate decision to fire the first rockets at Jerusalem to send a message to Israel that it was unleashing violence to object to perceived infringement of Arab rights at al-Aqsa, and to object to planned evictions of some Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. 

“We hit Jerusalem first so that the occupation leaders know that Al-Aqsa has men to protect it,” said Mr Sinwar. “And that we are ready to sacrifice dear and precious for the sake of Al-Aqsa, Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah.”

At one point in his comments Mr Sinwar switched from a combative tone to one intended to inspire the confidence of the West. 

Mr Sinwar claimed that Hamas could be trusted to be involved in reconstruction efforts and said its finances are healthy without dipping in to aid money.

“I affirm our commitment not to take a single cent intended for reconstruction and humanitarian efforts,” he said. “We have never taken a cent in the past.”

This comment came on the heels of insistence yesterday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Hamas does not get its hands on any aid money for reconstruction. Mr Blinken expressed hope that the process of fixing Gaza, by excluding Hamas, will sideline the group. 

In Cairo today Mr Blinken praised Egypt’s role in mediating the ceasefire and called it a “real and effective partner” for the US in the region. He is now in Jordan on the final leg of his trip. 


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