WATCH | Israel should do more to avoid killing civilians: David Cameron

Britain foreign secretary criticises SA for charging Israel with genocide

12 January 2024 - 17:57
David Cameron says the UK continues to support Israel but is worried about the deaths of civilians and starvation in Gaza. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Image: TOBY MELVILLE FRIENDSHIP TROUBLES David Cameron says the UK continues to support Israel but is worried about the deaths of civilians and starvation in Gaza. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The British government seems to be in a conundrum regarding its relationship with the Israeli government, which is killing thousands of people in Gaza, cutting off water and blocking aid.

British foreign secretary David Cameron found himself in hot water during a question-and-answer session in parliament this week. He initially defended Israel, saying the two governments remained good friends and that he understood the Jewish state's response to the vicious attack by Hamas on October 7.

I have been there and seen it with my own eyes, children were shot in front of their parents, people raped, blood on the floor and bullets in walls. It happened to a country that is a friend of ours, peace-loving people,” he said. 

Cameron, however, raised concerns about the poor living conditions of Palestinians and civilian killings in the Gaza war. 

“Israel has the right to defend itself and deal with the Hamas threat but it must do so within international humanitarian law. It should try to avoid civilian casualties — we are very clear they need to do better on that ground.”

Cameron told parliament that despite ongoing talks with the Israeli government, Britain still had trouble delivering aid to Gaza.

“I think Israel needs to do more to get more. We have about 150 trucks a day getting into Gaza. [If] we are not closer to 500, we will have more [affected by] widespread hunger and disease. At the moment, something like 90% of Gazans are getting less than one meal a day,” he said.

“One of the issues we would like Israel to look at is switching the water back on in northern Gaza.” 

MPs grilled Cameron on whether turning off the water supply was violating international humanitarian law but he could not give them an answer.

“My view is they ought to switch on [water] because in the north of Gaza the conflict is now over.

“If you are asking me if Israel has taken action that might be in breach of international law then, yes, I am worried about that. Every day I look at what happened and ask questions ‘is this in line with international law? Could the Israelites do better to avoid casualties?’ of course I do that,” Cameron said. 

While Cameron could not directly answer whether Israel had breached international law, he criticised South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

The South African case, I don’t think is helpful, I don’t agree with it. I don’t think we should bandy about terms like genocide in this case. We do not believe calling this genocide is the right approach. We do not agree with what South Africa is doing.”

Cameron said the British government would continue calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.