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U.K. won’t support major Israeli operation in Rafah, Cameron says

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron delivers a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre on May 9, 2024 in London, England.    (Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images Europe/TNS)
By Ellen Milligan Bloomberg News

The U.K. won’t support a major Israeli operation in Rafah, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said, echoing the stance of the U.S. but stopping short of matching President Joe Biden’s warning that he would stop additional weapons shipments to the Middle East nation if it went ahead.

“We would not support some major operation in Rafah unless there is a very clear plan for how to protect people,” Cameron said after a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre in London. “We haven’t seen that plan.”

The comments come after Biden said he’d halt additional shipments of offensive weapons to Israel if it proceeds with a ground invasion of Rafah, calling the potential loss of civilian life “just wrong.”

But asked whether Britain will follow suit, Cameron said that that whereas the U.S. is a “massive state supplier of weapons to Israel,” the U.K. doesn’t directly export arms and instead issues licenses to do so to defense firms.

“They’re involved deeply in the strategic and tactical conversations with the Israelis,” Cameron said. “We have influence, we have agency, we have very frank conversations with the Israelis — but we’re not in that same position.”

Cameron said his talks with Israel are focused on allowing more aid into Gaza and ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman Dave Pares said U.K. export licenses account for under 1% of Israel’s arms imports.

“It’s important to recognize the context here: the U.K. does not directly sell arms to the Israeli government,” he told reporters at a regular briefing. “There are no arms shipments from the U.K. government to Israel for us to halt.”