UK, Australia call for ‘immediate’ end to fighting in Gaza

Two countries warn of ‘potentially devastating consequences’ if Israel pushes ahead with ground offensive in Rafah.

Australia and the United Kingdom have called for an “immediate cessation of fighting” in Gaza, warning of “potentially devastating consequences” if Israel goes ahead with a planned ground assault on the southern city of Rafah.

The two countries issued a joint statement on Friday, expressing “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza” after Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles hosted their British counterparts, David Cameron and Grant Shapps, for talks in Adelaide.

The ministers noted “the large number of displaced persons taking refuge in the area and lack of safe spaces in Gaza” as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans for an attack on Gaza’s southernmost area, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter after fleeing bombardments in other parts of the enclave.

“They expressed the urgency of an immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza to allow aid to flow and hostages to be released as a crucial step toward a permanent, sustainable ceasefire,” said the statement, which was released as truce negotiations mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States are continuing in Doha.

UN vote

The call, which signals Britain and Australia’s increasing anxiety about the toll and impact of the war, came before the United Nations Security Council’s expected vote on a US-drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The draft text describes an “immediate and sustained ceasefire” as an imperative to protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. A truce would also be conditional on the release of some of the remaining captives taken by Hamas in its attacks on southern Israel on October 7.

Washington has for months vetoed calls for resolutions including that language, shielding its ally Israel amid rising global condemnation of a war in which close to 32,000 Palestinians have been killed.

A UN resolution would heap pressure on Netanyahu to pull back from an offensive in Rafah. But it is far from clear that any resolution would halt the war altogether.

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

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