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Rishi Sunak is “deeply concerned” about a potential Israeli offensive in the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza.

It comes after Israel’s military told Palestinians to leave parts of the city, with the announcement appearing to signal a long-threatened Israeli ground invasion is imminent.

Hamas accepts ceasefire deal proposed by mediators – follow live

Speaking on Monday, Mr Sunak said: “I’ve been very consistent that we are deeply concerned about the prospect of a military incursion into Rafah, given the number of civilians that are sheltering there and the importance of that crossing for aid.

“I’ve made those points repeatedly to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“The priority right now should be on all parties, but particularly Hamas, to agree to a deal to release hostages and allow more aid to go in as part of a temporary pause, which will allow us to build a sustainable ceasefire.

“That’s the best way to end the suffering. And that’s what I continue to call on all parties to do.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said an Israeli offensive “must not go ahead”, while shadow foreign secretary David Lammy called for an “immediate ceasefire” and said an Israeli offensive in Rafah “would be catastrophic”.

Israel says Rafah is the last significant Hamas stronghold but had previously paused plans to attack the city in southern Gaza so hostage release negotiations could take place.

However, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant claimed on Sunday that Hamas was not serious about a deal and the army was preparing “a powerful operation in the very near future in Rafah”.

On Sunday, Hamas set off rockets from Rafah towards Kerem Shalom, Israel’s main crossing point for delivering aid, killing three Israeli soldiers.

Overnight, Israeli strikes killed at least 19 people, including a baby, according to Palestinian health officials.

Follow live updates from the Israel-Hamas war

Site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Pic: Reuters
Image:
A house in Rafah was hit by Israeli strikes overnight. Pic: Reuters


Israel’s army has told about 100,000 people to evacuate eastern Rafah to a humanitarian zone designated by Israel on the Mediterranean coast.

Rafah, Gaza’s most southern city, on the Egyptian border, is where more than a million people – more than half of Gaza’s population – have taken refuge during the war that began last October.

Joining other Western nations and humanitarian organisations in urging Israel not to strike Rafah, Sir Keir said on social media: “With more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering in Rafah, an Israeli offensive must not go ahead.

“There must be an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages, and unimpeded aid into Gaza that can be delivered regularly, quickly and safely.”

Read more: Why has Israel’s offensive prompted widespread international condemnation?

People flee the eastern parts of Rafah after the Israeli military began evacuating Palestinian civilians ahead of a threatened assault on the southern Gazan city, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Hatem Khaled
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People were fleeing Rafah

Mr Lammy wrote: “An Israeli offensive in Rafah would be catastrophic. It must not go ahead.

“We need an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of hostages, and immediate unimpeded aid to Gaza.”

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron earlier said the UK is “very concerned” about the situation in Rafah and called for Israel to “stop and think seriously” before taking further action.

Charity ActionAid said forcing Palestinians from Rafah “without a safe destination is not only unlawful but would lead to catastrophic consequences”.

They said “there are no safe zones in Gaza” and aid workers have seen some of the “most severe conditions in recent memory” with widespread disease, starvation and chaos.

People in eastern Rafah were told to move to Muwasi, an Israeli-declared humanitarian area near the coast
Image:
People in eastern Rafah were told to move to al Mawasi, an Israeli-declared humanitarian area near the coast

Madeleine McGovern, from Care International UK, said ministers need to urgently suspend licences for arms sales to Israel to prevent an expansion of military operations in Rafah.

“It would be unconscionable for British-made weapons to be used in an assault on Rafah,” she said.

Islamic Relief warned the area where Palestinians have been ordered to move, al Mawasi, is not safe and that forcing more people there will make the humanitarian crisis worse.

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Concerns were raised after a Bloomberg article reported Kraken was “actively reviewing” which tokens it could continue to list under the European Union’s upcoming MiCA framework.

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Grant Shapps ‘angry inside’ over infected blood scandal ahead of inquiry report

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Grant Shapps 'angry inside' over infected blood scandal ahead of inquiry report

The defence secretary has said he is “angry inside” over the infected blood scandal ahead of a long-waited report into the decades-long injustice.

Grant Shapps told Sky News he agreed it had been one of the most “shameful failures” of government and said he was dismayed by the “lack of anybody taking responsibility”.

The findings of a public inquiry into the scandal, chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff, are due to be published on Monday.

From 1970 to the 1990s, tens of thousands of people were infected with contaminated blood through blood products or blood transfusions given via the NHS. People were infected with hepatitis or HIV – in some cases with both.

An estimated 3,000 people died as a result.

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Mr Shapps told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips that the scandal was a “massive injustice which needs to be put right” and said the government would act on the report.

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Thousands of people died after being given infected blood

He said that while he was yet to see the report, he hoped it would finally allow families’ pain and loss to be acknowledged and for the government to properly respond.

Mr Shapps said he had spoken to relatives of several victims, including a couple who had lost their son, and said their stories made feel him “angry inside”.

He added: “It just made me angry to know they had lost their son without anyone ever taking responsibility, so I think this is why this report tomorrow is very important.”

Successive governments have been blamed for failing to take responsibility and the current government has been accused of trying to delay compensation to victims after an inquiry was first set up by Theresa May in 2017.

It is estimated that the compensation bill could now exceed £10m.

The defence secretary admitted the process of delivering payouts to victims had gone on for “so long”.

He added: “This is a massive injustice which needs to be put right.

“And I know the government said we will. The report tomorrow, I think, will be the day for that family and others and I know the government will want to respond quickly.”

Asked whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would apologise to the victims, Mr Shapps said: “I don’t want to mislead because I don’t have special insight into that.”

Read more:
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Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting also told Trevor Phillips that he expected “successive governments” to be criticised in the report by Sir Brian.

“Everyone has got their responsibility to bear in this appalling scandal and we have got a shared responsibility to put it right,” he said.

“The moment to act can’t come soon enough.”

Sir Brian is due to deliver his final report just after midday on Monday.

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