‘Deeply concerned’ William calls for end to fighting in Gaza

The Prince of Wales has called for fighting in the Israel-Hamas war to end “as soon as possible” and an increase in humanitarian support for Gaza.

William said it is “critical that aid gets in and the hostages are released”, in an impassioned statement released as he visited the London headquarters of the British Red Cross (BRC), which is playing a key humanitarian role in the region.

The heir to the throne voiced his concerns as the conflict reaches a crucial stage, with fresh fears about an escalation in violence if Israeli forces move into Rafah, a city and major aid delivery point in southern Gaza.

The UK Government welcomed William’s intervention calling for the fighting in Gaza to end “as soon as possible”, No 10 said.

William said in his statement: “I remain deeply concerned about the terrible human cost of the conflict in the Middle East since the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7. Too many have been killed.

“I, like so many others, want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible. There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza. It’s critical that aid gets in and the hostages are released.

“Sometimes it is only when faced with the sheer scale of human suffering that the importance of permanent peace is brought home.

“Even in the darkest hour, we must not succumb to the counsel of despair. I continue to cling to the hope that a brighter future can be found and I refuse to give up on that.”

Rory Moylan, the BRC head of region for the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, briefed the prince about the “catastrophic” situation in Gaza and later described the royal visit as “extremely important” and a help to raising awareness.

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, asked whether Rishi Sunak agreed with William’s assessment of the Israel-Hamas war, told reporters: “Yes, his comments echo those that you have heard previously from the Prime Minister as well.

“The Prime Minister has said before on a number of occasions that too many civilians have lost their lives — I think Mansion House is an example where he made that point.

“And we want to see an end to the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible, so it is consistent with the Government position and we welcome that intervention. It is important that we speak (with) one voice as a nation.”

It is understood William had been considering making a statement since the October 7 raids by Palestinian militant group Hamas that killed about 1,200 people and saw around 250 taken hostage.

The Government was briefed in advance through the Foreign, Commonwealth &; Development Office (FCDO) about his comments, the nature of the BRC visit and a future trip to a synagogue, where he will join a discussion with young people from different communities who are advocates against hatred and antisemitism.

William’s comments did not stray into contentious political issues, like a possible solution to the conflict, but speaking out about the situation will attract criticism.

When he left BRC headquarters in the City of London, word of his visit – which had not been publicised in advance – had spread and a crowd had gathered outside including a small group of activists who shouted “Free Palestine” as he walked to his car.

He was accompanied by his new international affairs adviser David Hunt, who has been on secondment from the FCDO.

The prince was due to visit the BRC earlier this year with wife Kate, now convalescing after abdominal surgery, and when he sat down with Mr Moylan and BRC chief executive Beatrice Butsana-Sita, he spoke about his visit to the Middle East six years ago.

He said: “I went there in 2018, and I feel it had a lasting impression on me, so I’m always keeping an eye on what’s going on and just very keen to hear from you guys what’s going on, on the ground… particularly how your teams are managing to deal with such difficult circumstances.”

In his assessment Mr Moylan told the prince: “We all hear the numbers, but it doesn’t seem to shock us any more.

“We have a difficulty to express and communicate publicly how concerning the situation is – 30,000 dead, approaching, 65,000 injured, and that’s a population of two million in Gaza.

“We have over 100 hostages still being held, 1.7 million displaced from their homes in Gaza, effectively the entire population.”

He described the health system in Gaza as “decimated” and how “people are effectively starving, not enough aid is getting in”.

Later the prince spoke via a video link to Pascal Hundt, senior crisis manager in Gaza for the International Committee of the Red Cross, who was in southern Gaza, and told the royal: “I don’t even have words any more to describe what we are seeing, what we are hearing.”

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