A picture taken from Rafah on January 6, 2024 shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Photo: AFP / LEHTIKUVA

International news

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf has strongly urged the UK Government to leverage its influential position as a key ally of Israel to demand an immediate halt to the ongoing "indiscriminate attacks" in Gaza. Yousaf condemned the UK Government's persistent refusal to call for a ceasefire as "shameful," especially in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis that has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties, including children.

Ten weeks into the conflict following Israel's invasion of Gaza, the situation remains dire, with the United Nations reporting up to 1.9 million internally displaced people in Gaza. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has highlighted a looming famine risk for 40% of Gaza's population, driven by "catastrophic hunger." According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report, Gaza is facing a severe food security emergency exacerbated by the ongoing hostilities.

Yousaf emphasized the failure of diplomatic efforts to bring about a resolution, highlighting the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire. He critiqued the Israeli government's actions as excessive and beyond legitimate response to the Hamas attack on October 7. Yousaf also expressed deep concern over comments made by an Israeli Government Minister advocating for the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, a stance he believes should be universally condemned.

The First Minister called on the UK Government to assert that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as other Israeli ministers and military commanders, should be held accountable for the immense civilian casualties and the potential deaths from starvation and disease if Israel does not cease its attacks and allow sufficient aid into Gaza.

Furthermore, Yousaf stated that Hamas leaders must also be held responsible for their attacks against Israeli civilians. He criticized the UK Government's talk of a sustainable ceasefire, noting it has made no difference on the ground, as the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. Yousaf urged the UK Government to use its voice and influence to end the violence, both through direct engagement with the Israeli government and indirectly through the United States.