UK, Australia call for immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza

Britain and Australia declared the need for an immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza, as diplomatic pressure built on Israel to ditch a planned ground assault on the southern city of Rafah.

After a meeting of Australian and UK foreign and defense ministers in Adelaide, the allies issued a statement that stressed the “urgency of an immediate cessation of fighting in Gaza to allow aid to flow and hostages to be released.”

The call came just hours before the United States was expected to put a resolution to the UN Security Council stressing the need for “an immediate ceasefire.”

Washington has for months vetoed calls for an immediate ceasefire, hoping to shield its closest Middle Eastern ally, Israel, as it tries to avenge the attacks of October 7.

Such a UN resolution would create pressure on Israel to temper its intense five-month-old offensive in Gaza, which has claimed almost 32,000 lives, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israel has vowed to intensify its offensive by moving into Rafah, hoping to rout the last remnants of Hamas forces responsible for bloody October 7 raids into Israel that killed about 1,160 people, mostly civilians.

London’s call for an “immediate cessation of fighting” is a sign that Britain is also growing anxious about the toll of what Israel calls Operation Swords of Iron.

Britain and Australia said cessation was needed to “allow aid to flow and hostages to be released as a crucial step toward a permanent, sustainable ceasefire.”

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

The Australian and UK foreign and defense ministers also condemned Russia’s “full-scale, illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine” and demanded that Russia withdraw its forces.

“Ministers called on all those with close relationships with Russia, particularly China, to refrain from helping Russia to continue its war in any way and convince Russia to end its illegal war,” the statement said.