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 proceed with “caution” over escalating tensions with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Starmer “said that the situation on Israel’s northern border (with Lebanon) was of great concern and that it was essential that all parties acted with caution,” a 10 Downing Street spokesman said.

The Times reported that Starmer reiterated his commitment to “continue vital UK and Israeli cooperation to deter malign threats”, but there was a “clear and urgent need for a ceasefire in Gaza, the return of the hostages and a immediate increase in the volume of humanitarian aid reaching civilians.”

The Guardian reported that it impressed on Netanyahu “that it was also important to secure the long-term conditions for a two-state solution, including ensuring that the Palestinian Authority has the financial means to operate effectively.”

It comes amid reports that Britain’s new Labor government is set to abandon a bid by its Conservative predecessor to delay a decision by the International Criminal Court to bring charges against Netanyahu for alleged war crimes in Gaza.

Conservatives argued that neither the court nor any Palestinian body had jurisdiction over Israeli citizens, despite the ICC’s 2021 ruling that it had the power to prosecute violations of the Rome Statute in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank.

However, Labor officials have told The Guardian that the new government will not accept the challenge.

Starmer also spoke to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a series of introductory conversations after the former’s general election victory on Thursday, declaring his support for the Palestinian people’s “indisputable right” to a state own.

He said his government would seek to increase financial assistance to the PA and pressure Israel to withdraw completely from Gaza.

A UK government spokesman said: “Discussing the importance of reform and securing international legitimacy for Palestine, the Prime Minister said his long-standing policy on recognition to contribute to a peace process has not changed and that it is the inalienable right of the Palestinians”.

Labor pledged in its manifesto to take immediate action on Britain’s recognition of a Palestinian state after the party lost support over its position on Gaza during Britain’s regional elections in May.

Starmer said Israel had the right to defend itself after the October 7 Hamas attack, but later softened its stance.

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

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary David Lammy said he would look into restoring funding for the UN’s Palestine Refugee Agency in the Near East, as well as looking into issues including UK arms sales to Israel.

The United Kingdom suspended funding for UNRWA after Israel alleged that staff members participated in the October 7 attack.

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

Lammy said: “We have raised issues about funding … and real concerns that (we) don’t want a situation where the UK has contributed to huge difficulties already in Gaza.”

On the arms sales, he added: “I have made a solemn commitment in parliament that I will look at the legal assessments and I will start that process, of course, as soon as I can. I expect it to start next week when I meet with the officials.”

Lammy continued: “I have been very clear about international humanitarian law. There will be no holding back on that, because it is important that we all be seen to uphold rules-based order at a time especially when authoritarian states are abandoning it. It’s on that basis that I step into this role and I take it very, very seriously.”

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