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Rishi Sunak could visit Israel as soon as Thursday, Sky News understands | Politics News

Rishi Sunak is set to visit Israel, possibly as soon as Thursday, Sky News understands.

The prime minister’s trip could be part of a broader visit to the region, which may include stops in Jordan and Egypt.

It follows visits from Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz today and US president Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Israel-Gaza latest: IDF hints at ‘something different’ to ground offensive

And it comes amid growing concern about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with calls to open aid corridors as the Israeli military prepares for the next phase of its campaign against Hamas following the incursion on 7 October.

At least 1,400 people were killed, thousands more injured and almost 200 taken hostage when Hamas carried out the surprise assault on Israel, the most deadly attack by the group in decades.

Since then, at least 2,778 Palestinians have been killed as Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza and cut off fuel, water, food and medical supplies from entering the cramped territory, which is home to more than two million people.

Mr Biden is travelling to Israel on Wednesday amid concerns the conflict could spiral into a wider regional issue.

As part of his trip, the US president will also meet King Abdullah of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also travelled to Israel for an impromptu visit on Tuesday, while French President Emmanuel Macron said he will travel to the region “as soon as I consider that we have a useful agenda and very concrete actions to drive forward”.

News of Mr Sunak’s visit emerged before a strike on a hospital in Gaza which Palestinian officials claimed killed at least 500 people. Israel denied involvement in the blast, saying the explosion was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket.

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Former CIA Director General David Petraeus assesses the impact of President Biden visiting Israel.

Read More:
Teenage sisters among 10 Britons still missing in Israel after Hamas attack
President Joe Biden confirms he will travel to Israel
It is far from clear how much Rishi Sunak can do in the Israel-Hamas war

Downing Street would not comment publicly on whether Mr Sunak would head to the region.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ll set out travel plans in the usual way, I couldn’t get into speculation.”

However Mark Regev, an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Sky News on Tuesday night he was scheduled to visit.

Asked if it’s best President Biden doesn’t travel to Israel, he said: “I disagree, I disagree. And it’s not just he [who’s] coming – your prime minister, the British prime minister is supposed to come, the French prime minister’s supposed to come.”

Mr Sunak updated Cabinet on Tuesday with the latest developments from the conflict, telling ministers Hamas was responsible for the “murder and suspected abduction of British nationals”.

At least six Britons were killed in the Hamas attacks, with a further 10 missing – some feared dead.

Mr Sunak also held calls with the leaders of Qatar and Saudi Arabia when it was agreed the conflict “must not be allowed to destabilise the wider region and cause further bloodshed”.

They also held conversations on efforts to free Britons taken hostage by Hamas, and on ensuring safe passage for aid to Gaza.

British officials are working to secure the opening of the Rafah crossing to allow Britons to flee to Egypt and for humanitarian aid to get into Gaza.

King Charles and Queen Camilla arrive in France for state visit months after it was rescheduled due to riots | UK News

The King and Queen have arrived in France to a guard of honour as they begin a three-day state visit to the country.

The royal couple are visiting Paris and Bordeaux six months after the trip had to be rescheduled because of widespread rioting across the country.

The King and Queen were greeted by the French prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, and other diplomats after they arrived at Paris’s Orly airport on Wednesday afternoon.

An officer and 20 guardsmen of the Republican Guard, which is part of the French National Gendarmerie, were lined up to greet them.

French President Emmanuel Macron issued a poignant welcome ahead of the King’s arrival, writing on social media: “You visited as a Prince, you return as a King. Your Majesty, welcome.”

The King and Queen met up with Mr Macron, 45, and his wife Brigitte, 70, for a ceremony of remembrance and wreath laying at the Arc de Triomphe, in the capital’s centre.

As part of the ceremony, King Charles was invited by the president to symbolically light the monument’s eternal flame which burns in memory of those who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Afterwards, the foursome were due to process down the Champs Elysees by car towards the Elysee Palace, the president’s official residence, where the King and Mr Macron are sitting down for talks.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne greets Britain's King Charles and Britain's Queen Camilla upon arrival at the Orly Airport on September 20, 2023, on the first day of a state visit to France. Britain's King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla are on a three-day state visit to France. MIGUEL MEDINA/Pool via REUTERS

In the evening, the King and Queen will be guests of honour at a grand black-tie state banquet hosted by Mr and Mrs Macron in the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

Both the King and Mr Macron will address the 160 guests, who will include high-profile figures chosen for their contribution to UK-France relations.

The majority of the original royal programme has been retained but a few new elements have been added, including the Queen and Mrs Macron launching a new Franco-British literary prize at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

Britain's King Charles and Britain's Queen Camilla disembark their aircraft upon arrival at the Orly Airport on September 20, 2023, on the first day of a state visit to France. Britain's King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla are on a three-day state visit to France. MIGUEL MEDINA/Pool via REUTERS

The King will become the first British monarch to give a speech from France’s senate chamber to senators and national assembly members on Thursday.

Other highlights include the royal couple meeting sports stars as France hosts the Rugby World Cup.

When the couple travel to Bordeaux, home to 39,000 Britons, they will meet UK and French military personnel to hear about how the two nations are collaborating on defence.

Britain's King Charles and Britain's Queen Camilla travel in a royal vehicle upon their arrival at the Orly Airport on September 20, 2023, on the first day of a state visit to France. Britain's King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla are on a three-day state visit to France. MIGUEL MEDINA/Pool via REUTERS

The King and Queen’s planned tour in March was to be their first state visit, but it was postponed at the last minute after violent nationwide demonstrations.

Bordeaux’s town hall was set on fire by protesters just a few days before the trip was due to begin.

Germany – the second leg of the overseas tour – became the historic first state visit destination for the royal couple instead.

Police officer sacked after arranging for child to join visit to registered sex offender | UK News

A police officer has been sacked after arranging for a child to go on a routine visit to a registered sex offender.

Detective Sergeant Nicola Coutts was dismissed without notice following an accelerated misconduct hearing held by Avon and Somerset Police.

The hearing heard how DS Coutts arranged for a teenage work experience student to attend the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) office, as well as shadow an officer on a routine visit to a registered sex offender.

This happened without authorisation from the former officer’s senior managers and without submitting a formal application or obtaining vetting clearance.

Chief Constable Sarah Crew ruled DS Coutts’ actions were in breach of the standards of professional behaviour and amounted to gross misconduct, and decided the sanction should be dismissal without notice.

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The police force’s head of professional standards, Supt Mark Edgington, said: “DS Coutts’ line manager had specifically asked her to halt the placement and take the teenager out of Headquarters prior to the home visit taking place, but this direction was ignored.

“The officer who conducted the home visit didn’t know the teenager’s age and believed all necessary vetting and security considerations had been carried out.

“The teenager was not left alone at any time, and the visit was cut short after the officer was contacted by phone and told to return to Headquarters immediately.

“DS Coutts’ actions in arranging and facilitating the placement were highly reckless and demonstrated poor judgement and a significant lack of professional care.”

She will now be added to a barred list, preventing her from working in policing or other law enforcement agencies again.

Liz Truss to visit Taiwan in ‘solidarity’ over increasing threats from China | Politics News

Liz Truss will visit Taiwan next week to give a speech about democracy in the face of “increasingly aggressive behaviour from China”.

The former prime minister will deliver a keynote speech to a thinktank to show “solidarity” with Taiwan as it faces an increasing threat from China, her spokesman said.

She is also expected to meet senior Taiwanese government officials during the trip.

Ms Truss, who was also foreign secretary under Boris Johnson, has been giving speeches around the world with a focus on standing up to China since she resigned as prime minister last October after just 44 days.

Ahead of her visit next week, she said: “Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy.

“I’m looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasingly aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing.”

In recent months, Ms Truss has given a speech about China to Japan’s parliament and to the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, where she called on Western democracies to toughen their stance on China.

Two days before her Taiwan visit she will speak at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit where she will talk about an “economic NATO” where like-minded nations agree to make trade and investment decisions to support freedom.

Ms Truss’ short-lived premiership contributed to bringing relations between the UK and China to a low point but her successor Rishi Sunak has been trying to engage with China where possible.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a J-15 Chinese fighter jet prepares to take off from the Shandong aircraft carrier during the combat readiness patrol and military exercises around the Taiwan Island by the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Sunday, April 9, 2023. China's military declared Monday it is "ready to fight" after completing three days of large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to the Taiwanese president's trip to the U.S. last week. (An Ni/Xinhua via AP)
China held combat readiness exercises in April around Taiwan. Pic: AP

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he “made plain” the UK’s views on issues including Taiwan during a meeting with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng on Friday.

Some MPs, including Tories, condemned Mr Han’s invitation to attend the King’s coronation over the weekend and Mr Cleverly’s planned visit to China this year.

Read more:
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West must ‘get real’ about China threat – Truss

Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Tsai Chi-chang in Taipei
Nancy Pelosi and Taiwan’s Vice President Tsai Chi-chang in Taipei last year

Visits by Western politicians to Taiwan have become more fractious as China ramps up its rhetoric and displays of military power against Taiwan.

Last year, then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island was condemned by Beijing, who began military exercises around Taiwan shortly after she landed.

A long-time critic of Beijing’s regime, Ms Pelosi met a former student leader of the Tiananmen Square protest, a dissident Hong Kong bookseller and a Taiwanese activist who was imprisoned in China.

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‘They’re not keeping us from going to Taiwan’

Beijing called the visit a “provocation” by the US and warned President Joe Biden to abide by the One China principle, adding “those who play with fire will perish by it”.

The Foreign Office is “aware and abreast” of Ms Truss’ Taiwan visit, her team said, but the department is not in charge of approving overseas visits by MPs.

King and Queen Consort’s visit to Paris could be disrupted by protests over retirement age | UK News

The first state visit of the King’s reign could be disrupted by fierce protests in France over a plan to raise the retirement age.

Unions have called for more demonstrations to coincide with the King and Queen Consort’s visit to Paris on Sunday.

A banquet at the Palace of Versailles, hosted by President Macron, could be moved or even cancelled, according to local reports.

Protesters scuffle at the end of a rally in Paris Pic: AP
Protesters scuffle at the end of a rally in Paris. Pic: AP
A protester walks past burning garbage bins as French riot police stand in position amid clahes during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform, in Paris, France, March 23, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Hundreds of people marching during a rally in Paris Pic: AP
Hundreds of people marching during a rally in Paris Pic: AP

It is understood the trip’s logistics have been under review for a few days, amid massive protests in the French capital.

Security concerns could mean the royals’ contact with the public is reduced and the impact of the visit diminished.

Large amounts of uncollected rubbish on the streets of Paris could also be embarrassing for Mr Macron and Paris officials.

The couple are due to stay in France until the 29 March, also visiting the Bordeaux region, before heading to Germany.

The unions’ announcement of weekend protests follows a record turnout in Paris against the bill to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Authorities say 119,000 people marched on Thursday – believed to be the biggest demonstration in the capital in the current wave of protests.

The vast majority of people were peaceful, but police used tear gas to disperse rioters who threw fireworks and other objects.

Britain's King Charles and Queen Camilla visit Colchester Castle in Colchester, Britain, March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Chris Radburn/Pool
The King and Queen Consort are due to visit Berlin after they go to Paris

Across France, more than a million people are said to have joined marches on Thursday, a day after Mr Macron forced through the law without a vote.

Protests in cities such as Lyon, Nantes, and Rennes also saw outbreaks of violence.

In Lorient, in western France, the courtyard of a police station was set alight and its windows smashed, while an administrative building was also attacked.

Strikes linked to the pension changes have also disrupted travel across the country, with demonstrations blocking train stations, major city roads, ports and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Joe Biden to visit Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland | Politics News

Joe Biden will visit Northern Ireland following a formal invitation from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The invitation was extended as the pair met for talks in San Diego to announce a nuclear submarine deal with Australia.

“It’s my intention to go to Northern Ireland and the Republic,” Mr Biden said as they met in Point Loma naval base.

Mr Sunak told the president: “I look forward to our conversations and also importantly, to invite you to Northern Ireland, which hopefully you will be able to do and so we can commemorate the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I know it’s something very special and personal to you. We’d love to have you over.”

Mr Biden said: “Twenty-five years? It seems like yesterday.”

Details of Mr Biden’s visit to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are expected to be revealed soon.

The US president often highlights his Irish roots and has taken a keen interest in issues related to the agreement.

Mr Sunak revealed Mr Biden had also invited him to visit Washington DC in June.

Following the talks, he told reporters: “It’s great that we’re going to see each other a lot over the next few months.

“I was pleased to accept the president’s invitation to visit him in DC in June.”

Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) meets his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern for crisis talks on the future of Northern Ireland February 3. Earlier in the evening, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson had announced to the House of Commons that he was taking the power to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly in the wake of the Irish Republican Army's failure to decommission any of its weaponry in line with the Good Friday Agreement. IW/ME
The GFA was signed by Tony Blair (right) and Bertie Ahern (taoiseach at the time)

What is the Good Friday Agreement?

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was signed with the aim to end the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland at the time, known as the Troubles, which started in the late 1960s. The agreement was signed on 10 April 1998.

A new government was formed in Northern Ireland representing both sides in order to foster cooperation between the two communities.

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What is the Windsor Framework?

But Brexit rocked the political situation, with Northern Ireland being the only UK country to have a border with an EU nation – the Republic of Ireland.

Checks on the border would disrupt the GFA, according to both nations, so the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The UK has since agreed to the Windsor Framework with the EU in an attempt to overcome the issues with the protocol.

The new post-Brexit deal was designed to reduce the number of checks on goods entering Northern Ireland ports by designating two lanes. Products travelling through Northern Ireland to reach the Republic – which is in the EU – will go via a red lane for all the relevant customs checks, while those being sent only to Northern Ireland will go via a green lane.

Kate beats William at spin class on visit to Welsh leisure centre – all while wearing high-heeled boots | UK News

The Princess of Wales beat her husband at an endurance spin class during a visit to an Aberavon leisure centre – while donning her high-heeled boots.

The royal couple joined gym goers at the endurance cycling session in south Wales, and were challenged to see who could cycle the furthest in 45 seconds while riding a virtual race in the Italian mountains.

As they entered the room, the prince apologised to the class saying: “Sorry for ruining your spin class.”

He then pointed out to Kate that she was still wearing her high-heeled boots.

“Not sure I am dressed for this,” she responded.

Once under way, and clearly teasing her husband, Kate said: “Can I make it harder?”

At the conclusion, William said, while breathing heavily: “Talk to you in a minute.”

The Princess of Wales looks at her winners trophy after beating the Prince of Wales in a timed distance spin class during a visit to Aberavon Leisure and Fitness Centre in Port Talbot, to meet local communities and hear about how sport and exercise can support mental health and wellbeing. Picture date: Tuesday February 28, 2023.
The princess was given a trophy for her victory over William

The event was part of a series of visits in south Wales to mark St David’s Day.

Away from their race, the pair toured the centre’s sports hall and swimming pool, and met children from the local Tywyn Primary School, who were taking part in various indoor sports.

Seven-year-old Rafael Vazquez, from Swansea, presented the couple with a set of Welsh leotards for their children.

His mother Jo Vazquez said: “It was wonderful to meet them. They are so genuine people and have a real interest in the community, children and sport.

“They said how interested they were in keeping leisure centres open, especially swimming, as it is such a key skill for life.”

William and Kate also visited a therapy garden in Pontyclun, where the princess planted a Sweet William – prompting a laugh from her husband.

The Princess of Wales pats a dog during a visit to Brynawel Rehabilitation Centre near the town of Pontyclun, Mid Glamorgan, to hear about the work they do to support those struggling with the effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Picture date: Tuesday February 28, 2023.
The prince and princess met a great dane on their visit to a therapy garden in Pontyclun

They also met a therapy dog, seven-year-old Great Dane, Ragnar, with William commenting on the dog’s “big ears”, while Kate said: “He must be very popular.”

Kate was presented with a bunch of daffodils by two-year-old Cora Phillips, with her mother Michelle Phillips, from Llanharan, saying: “Oh my goodness, I did not expect that in a million years.”

Turning to her daughter, she said: “We just met a princess. We’re never going to forget that.”

Anti-monarchy protest during King’s visit to Milton Keynes | UK News

The King faced a group of anti-monarchy demonstrators during a visit to Milton Keynes – but their protests were met with chants of “God save the King” from much larger crowds assembled to greet the monarch.

He had travelled there after it was awarded city status in August 2022 as part of the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The 74-year-old monarch went to Milton Keynes alone after the Queen Consort tested positive for COVID at the beginning of the week.

Protestors await the arrival of King Charles III arriving at Church of Christ the Cornerstone to attend a reception for members of the local community and organisations, during his visit to Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire to celebrate its new status as a city, awarded as part of the late Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Picture date: Thursday February 16, 2023.
Protesters held up signs spelling out #NotMyKing

As he arrived at a church in the city centre to meet community representatives, the King went on an impromptu walkabout to shake hands with members of the 300-strong crowd who lined the crash barriers.

A group of around 20 anti-monarchists held up signs spelling out #NotMyKing, and one protester shouted “Why are you wasting money on a coronation Charles?”

At this point, members of the public began singing “God save the King” which drowned out other comments.

Graham Smith from Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, was part of the protest and said it was aimed at raising awareness for a larger demonstration his organisation is planning for the coronation.

He said: “Everything has changed with the Queen gone and Charles on the throne. He hasn’t inherited the deference and sycophancy that was around the Queen, and we’ve just had a new head of state without anybody being asked.”

Republic has said that it intends to protest in Parliament Square during the coronation ceremony on 6 May as the royal procession passes through on its way to Westminster Abbey.

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Student pleads not guilty to threatening behaviour after eggs thrown at King
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During his visit to the Church of Christ the Cornerstone, the King met representatives from many aspects of Milton Keynes life, including arts and religion, the natural world, young people and business.

In his speech, the King said that Milton Keynes “is a name, as we know, that evokes the memory not only of one of our greatest poets, but also of one of our greatest economists. It is that fine combination of lyricism and practical realism which marks out Milton Keynes today”.

After the event, the King went on a brief walkabout when he left, and talked to well-wisher Tazmin Farrington, telling her that his wife was “getting better”.

Labour brand Rishi Sunak’s shelter visit ‘excruciating’ after PM asks homeless man if he works in business | Politics News

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has branded Rishi Sunak’s visit to a shelter “excruciating” after he asked a homeless man if he works in business.

Mr Sunak visited the homeless shelter in London run by The Passage on Friday and praised the “fantastic” work that the institution is carrying out during the festive period.

The PM got behind the counter and helped served food to people coming in for a hot meal – including a full English breakfast to one homeless man called Dean – but a rather awkward exchange ensued.

After a brief introduction, Dean asked the PM: “Are you sorting the economy out?

The PM replied: “That is exactly what I am trying to do.”

After Dean said that sorting the economy would be good for business, Mr Sunak then asked: “Do you have… do you work in business?”

Dean replied: “No, I’m homeless. I am actually a homeless person. But I am interested in business.”

The PM responded: “Yeah? What kind of business?”

Dean added: “I like finance, it’s good for the city and when finance and stuff is doing well, we all do well, don’t we, in London.”

Mr Sunak then proceeded to tell Dean how he “used to work in finance” and how jobs in finance can now be found “around the UK”.

Dean replied: “Like law associations, stuff like that?”

The PM then continues: “Is that something you’d like to get into?”

Dean responds: “Yeah I wouldn’t mind, umm.. but, I don’t know, I’d like to get through Christmas first.”

Mr Sunak then asks Dean what he is doing this weekend.

“No idea, but I’m hoping [St] Mungo’s can help me get into some temporary accommodation so I’m not on the street,” he replied.

Reposting the video of Mr Sunak’s exchange with Dean, Ms Rayner labelled the conversation “excruciating”.

While shadow Wales secretary Jo Stevens added: “He has no idea.”

Another Labour MP, Bill Esterson, said the exchange demonstrated Mr Sunak was “out of touch”.

‘NHS staff are worked to the bone’: Health secretary Steve Barclay challenged by mother during hospital visit | Politics News

A mother has challenged health secretary Steve Barclay during a hospital visit, telling him that NHS staff are being “worked to the bone”.

Sarah Pinnington-Auld said her three-year-old daughter Lucy, who has cystic fibrosis, was pushed off the “absolutely horrific” waiting list at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill, London, because of “the obscene number of people who came through and the lack of resources”.

“That’s what is really upsetting actually because we have a daughter with a life-limiting, life-shortening condition,” she told Mr Barclay.

“We have brilliant experts that are being worked to the bone and the level of care… they’re not being able to provide it in the way they want to provide it.

“The staff are amazing, the NHS staff are incredible, and they are particularly even more incredible because they are working under such rough conditions.”

Politics live: Health secretary says he is keen to talk to unions

She cited the pressures facing King’s College Hospital and added that “it’s not fair to blame it on the pandemic anymore is it, because actually we have problems in the NHS before we went into the pandemic”.

She added: “We were short of doctors, we were short of beds going into the pandemic so I think it is really wrong to blame it on the pandemic.”

And on bed shortages, she told the health secretary: “We have people who can’t get into health and social care and are taking up beds.

“So until you as a government prioritise health and social care, we are not going to free up the already limited number of beds.”

The mother-of-two said Mr Barclay responded to her concerns by saying the government was investing more money into the health service

Ms Pinnington-Auld has previously posted on social media about her support for the Labour Party.

Mr Barclay is understood to be writing to the unions to request fresh talks over strike action – but sources say he still won’t discuss increasing their wages.

Both nurses and ambulance workers are set to stage walkouts this week amid ongoing anger over pay and working conditions.