Yemeni minister says Houthis abducted 70 Yemenis, including 18 UN staff

LONDON: British Prime Minister Keir Starmer has told his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu that there must be a ceasefire in Gaza, while warning him to act “with caution” amid escalating tensions with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Starmer said the situation on Israel’s northern border (with Lebanon) was very worrying and it was vital that all parties acted with caution, a spokesman for 10 Downing Street said.

As the Times reported, Starmer reiterated his determination to “continue the vital cooperation between Britain and Israel to deter malign threats,” but said there was “a clear and urgent need for a ceasefire in Gaza, the return of hostages and an immediate increase in humanitarian aid to civilians.”

As The Guardian reported, he impressed upon Netanyahu “that it is also important to ensure that the long-term conditions for a two-state solution are in place. This includes ensuring that the Palestinian Authority has the financial means to function effectively.”

Earlier, there were reports that Britain’s new Labour government was planning to back down on its previous Conservative government’s attempt to delay a decision by the International Criminal Court to indict Netanyahu for alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

The conservatives had argued that neither the court nor any Palestinian body had jurisdiction over Israeli citizens, even though the ICC ruled in 2021 that it had the power to prosecute violations of the Rome Statute in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank.

However, Labour Party representatives told the Guardian that the new government would not meet this challenge.

Starmer also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a series of introductory talks following his election victory on Thursday. In this conversation, he expressed his support for the “indisputable right” of the Palestinian people to their own state.

He said his government would seek to increase financial support to the Palestinian Authority and put pressure on Israel to withdraw completely from Gaza.

A British government spokesman said: “In his speech about the importance of reform and ensuring international legitimacy for Palestine, the Prime Minister said that his long-standing policy of recognition as a contribution to a peace process had not changed and that this was the indisputable right of the Palestinians.”

The Labour Party had promised in its election manifesto to take immediate action to ensure British recognition of a Palestinian state after the party lost support in British regional elections in May because of its stance on the Gaza Strip.

After the Hamas attack on October 7, Starmer said Israel had the right to defend itself, but has since softened his position.

Despite this change, Labour lost five seats to pro-Palestinian independent candidates in Thursday’s election.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary David Lammy said he would work to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and would also examine issues such as British arms sales to Israel.

Britain stopped funding the UNRWA relief agency after Israel claimed that agency staff were involved in the October 7 attack.

Most other countries that took similar measures have now resumed funding, but the previous British government said it would await the outcome of a UN investigation before making a decision.

Lammy said: “We have raised questions about funding… and real concerns that we do not want the UK contributing to enormous hardship in Gaza already now.”

On the arms sales, he added: “I have solemnly promised in Parliament that I will look at the legal assessments and I will of course start that process as soon as I am able. I expect we will start that next week when I meet with the officials.”

Lammy continued: “I have been absolutely clear on international humanitarian law. There will be no going back from that because it is important that we all appear to be upholding the rules-based order, particularly at a time when authoritarian states are abandoning it. It is on that basis that I took on this role and I take it very, very seriously.”

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