British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Affairs minister Annalena Baerbock have called for a “sustainable” ceasefire in the escalating Gaza conflict, as they warned that “too many civilians have been killed” by Israel.
Their intervention, made in the Sunday Times of London in a joint article, comes amid growing pressure on Israel over its conduct of the fight against Hamas.
The two senior politicians say that neither the UK nor Germany is calling for an immediate ceasefire, but the call for a “sustainable” ceasing of conflict is a significant shift in language by the UK Government.
They wrote: “Our goal cannot simply be an end to fighting today. It must be peace lasting for days, years, generations. We therefore support a ceasefire, but only if it is sustainable.
“We know many in the region and beyond have been calling for an immediate ceasefire. We recognise what motivates these heartfelt calls.
“It is an understandable reaction to such intense suffering, and we share the view that this conflict cannot drag on and on. That is why we supported the recent humanitarian pauses.”
In recent days, the US has also expressed unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza.
The offensive, triggered by the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, has flattened much of northern Gaza and driven 85% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes.
Displaced people have squeezed into shelters mainly in the south in a spiralling humanitarian crisis.
“We do not believe that calling right now for a general and immediate ceasefire, hoping it somehow becomes permanent, is the way forward. It ignores why Israel is forced to defend itself: Hamas barbarically attacked Israel and still fires rockets to kill Israeli citizens every day,” Cameron and Baerbock write.
“Hamas must lay down its arms.”
Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration is also facing public anger, after Israeli troops on Friday mistakenly shot dead three hostages.
The Israeli military confirmed on Saturday that the men had been waving a white flag and were shirtless when they were killed.
Anger over the mistaken killings is likely to increase pressure on the Israeli government to renew Qatar-mediated negotiations with Hamas over swapping more captives for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Meanwhile pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered again this weekend to call for an end to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
Organisers Stop the War Coalition listed 57 separate pro-Palestinian events across UK on Saturday, including assemblies and candlelit vigils.