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Blair denies link to role in ‘resettlement’ of Gazans

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has strongly denied an Israeli media report linking him to talks last week about the resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza in other countries.

Channel 12 claimed on Sunday that Mr Blair, who left office in 2007 and was a Middle East envoy charged with building up Palestinian institutions, was in Israel last week.

The news channel said he held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior minister Benny Gantz about a mediation role after the war with Hamas.

He could also act as a go-between with moderate Arab states about the “voluntary resettlement” of Gazans, it added.

However, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a non-profit organisation he set up in 2016, said the report was “a lie”.

“The story was published without any contact with Tony Blair or his team. No such discussion has taken place,” it said in a statement last night.

“Nor would Tony Blair have such a discussion. The idea is wrong in principle. Gazans should be able to stay and live in Gaza.”

Read more: Israel signals new phase of military offensive in Gaza

The report came after two far-right Israeli government ministers called for Jewish settlers to return to Gaza after the war with Hamas, and said Palestinians should be encouraged to emigrate.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party, told Israel’s Army Radio: “To control the territory militarily for a long time, we need a civilian presence.”

He said Israel should “encourage” relocation.

Yesterday, Israel’s firebrand National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said: “We must promote a solution to encourage the emigration of Gaza’s residents.”

The comments drew condemnation from Hamas, which runs Gaza, and whose fighters launched attacks on Israel on 7 October that killed some 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s relentless military response has killed more than 22,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

United Nations agencies have voiced alarm over a spiralling humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where 2.4 million Palestinians remain under siege and bombardment, most of them displaced and huddling in shelters and tents, amid dire food shortages.

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