RISHI Sunak has rejected arguments Israel has perpetrated war crimes in Gaza as he updated MPs on the conflict.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, reiterated his calls for an immediate ceasefire as he suggested Israel was guilty of collective punishment - outlawed by the Geneva Convention - in retaliation to attacks from Hamas.

The Prime Minister said he did not “agree” with Flynn’s description of the conflict but earlier reiterated his intention to continue applying “diplomatic pressure” to improve the flow of aid into Palestine.

In a statement to the Commons, Sunak also announced he was committing an additional £20 million in aid to Palestine on top of a previously announced emergency package worth £10m.

He also informed MPs more than 4000 Palestinians had been killed since the war broke out on October 7.

British intelligence had also concluded it was “likely” a missile which destroyed the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza was fired from within the strip, the Prime Minister added.

And he indicated the UK Government wanted to see progress on building a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, which he suggested had been stalled.

Updating MPs on his visit to the Middle East last week, the PM said: “I travelled first to Israel. It is a nation in mourning. But it is also a nation under attack. The violence against Israel did not end on October 7.

"Hundreds of rockets are launched at their towns and cities every day. And Hamas still holds around 200 hostages, including British citizens.

“In Jerusalem, I met some of the relatives who are suffering unbearable torment. Their pain will stay with me for the rest of my days.

“I’m doing everything in my power and working with all our partners to get their loved ones home.

"So in my meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Herzog, I told them once again that we stand resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror.

“I stressed again the need to act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians.”

He added: “I recognise that the Palestinian people are suffering terribly. Over 4000 Palestinians have been killed in this conflict. They are also the victims of Hamas, who embed themselves in the civilian population.

"Too many lives have already been lost, and the humanitarian crisis is growing. I went to the region to address these issues directly.”

'Israeli war crimes'

In response to the statement, Flynn put pressure on the Prime Minister to “go further” and call for a ceasefire as he accused Israel of committing war crimes in its response to Hamas’s attacks.

The National: Stephen Flynn

Flynn (above) said: “I said last week that history would judge us based on our response not just to the abhorrent terrorist attack in Israel but in our response to the humanitarian crisis which was undoubtedly unfolding in Gaza itself.

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“On our collective, unequivocal condemnation of the abhorrent of October 7, this House has been and continues to be fully united, just as we are united in our condemnation of any form of antisemitism which rears its head on these isles and indeed in our thoughts and prayers for all of those hostages who need to be returned safely to their families.

“However in respect of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza – and while I do welcome the announcements from the Prime Minister today – I believe that we can and must go further, and here’s why.

“Because turning off electricity and water to Gaza is collective punishment. Limiting the free access of food and medicines to Gaza is collective punishment. Preventing people from fleeing, including British citizens, from Gaza is collective punishment.

“Dropping leaflets in northern Gaza telling people to flee or they will be deemed partners of Hamas is a precursor for further collective punishment. All of us, all of us in this chamber know that collective punishment is prohibited by international law.

“So I ask the Prime Minister to use his office to do some good on the humanitarian side of this conflict in Gaza and to answer the question which I asked last week. Will he now, given the severity of this appalling situation, agree that a ceasefire is required in the region?”

Sunak replied: “I would characterise the situation differently to [Flynn], with the greatest of respect.

“Israel has suffered an appalling act of terror. It has the right to defend itself and ensure that something like this does not happen again.

“He talks about people moving from the north to the south of Gaza. It is absolutely right that Israel takes every precaution to avoid harming civilians and indeed their president, in my conversations [with him] confirmed that they intend to act within international humanitarian law.

“But what is happening is Hamas is preventing people from moving and keeping them in harm’s way.

“And again, he didn’t mention that in his statement but he would do well to recognise that Hamas’s policy: Hamas embedding itself in civilian populations, using them as human shields and then preventing them from leaving when they’ve been given advance notice.

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“Where I do agree and have been very clear is that we must do everything we can to support humanitarian efforts into Gaza, which I’ll refer him to my previous comments.”

A recent YouGov poll found the UK population was 76% in favour of an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas while just 8% were opposed.

In response to another call for a ceasefire, from Tory backbencher Crispin Blunt, the Prime Minister said: "It is difficult to tell Israel to have a ceasefire when it is still facing rocket fire on an almost daily basis, and when its citizens are still being held hostage and it has suffered an appalling terrorist attack where it has a right to defend itself."

A two-state solution?

Sunak also appeared to indicate an appetite for reviving hopes for a two-state solution, which proponents say would allow Israel and Palestine to coexist alongside one another peacefully.

He said: “Our support for a two-state solution is highly valued across the region, but it can’t be a cliched talking point to roll out at times like this.

“The truth is that in recent years, energy has moved into other avenues like the Abraham Accords and normalisation talks with Saudi Arabia.

“We support those steps absolutely and believe that they can bolster wider efforts. But we must never lose sight of how essential the two-state solution is.

“So we will work together with our international partners to bring renewed energy and creativity to this effort.”

Sunak added: “It will rely on establishing more effective governance for Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank, it will also mean challenging actions that undercut legitimate aspirations for Palestinian statehood.”