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UK foreign secretary urges Israel to show ‘restraint’ in Gaza offensive

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has urged Israel to show “restraint” in Gaza ahead of an expected ground offensive in the region.

The Foreign Secretary said it was in “Israel’s interest to avoid civilian casualties and Palestinian casualties” as he claimed Hamas hoped to turn the conflict into “ a war between the Muslim world and the wider world”.

“None of us, including Israel, want that to be the case and so that’s why we do give that strong advice from a position of friendship,” he said.

strong advice from a position of friendship,” he said.

He added: “I’ve said that restraint, discipline these are the hallmarks of the Israel Defence Force that I want to see and indeed those are the hallmarks of a high-functioning military organisation, which the IDF is – in stark contrast to the terrorist atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it is readying to “expand the offensive” by implementing a “wide range of offensive operational plans” which it said includes a “joint and coordinated attack from the air, sea and land.”

Asked if he had concerns about the conflict amid accusations of human rights abuses, Mr Cleverly told Sky News’s Sunday With Trevor Phillips programme that in meetings with Israeli counterparts he had “reinforced the UK’s position about the preservation of life, the avoidance of civilian casualties”.

“I know the Israelis completely understand that – President Herzog has said their operations will be in accordance with international law.

There is a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza as with water, food and fuel supplies running short after Israel imposed an effective siege on the region, home to more than 2 million Palestinians.

Israel has told more than 1 million Palestinians — almost half the territory’s population — to move south.

The military says it is trying to move civilians ahead of a major campaign against Hamas militants in the north, but Hamas has urged people to stay in their homes.

The World Health Organization said the evacuation “could be tantamount to a death sentence” for more than 2,000 patients in northern hospitals, including newborns in incubators and people in intensive care.

Gaza’s hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel within two days, according to the UN, which said that that would endanger the lives of thousands of patients.

Speaking to BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, Mr Cleverly denied that Israel’s actions in Gaza constituted a breach of human rights law.

He was shown several quotes from international leaders including Volker Turk, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, who said that the “imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians… is prohibited under international humanitarian law”.

Mr Cleverly responded: “There are a number of other quotes which you didn’t show, which don’t agree with them.

He added that the UK’s position on international law is absolutely unwavering and repeated that President Herzog had said “that Israel will abide by international law”.

Pushed again, he said: “What I’m saying is the UK Government is absolutely committed to the adherence of international human [rights] law. And when we see breaches of that we raise that including with Israel.”

“The point is the clear difference is from statements coming from Israel, saying that they respect and will abide by international humanitarian law and Hamas on the other hand, who are specifically targeting civilians,” Mr Cleverly continued.