Rishi Sunak has defended his government’s decision to abstain on a UN call for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

The UK was one of 23 countries to neither back or oppose the emergency motion at the General Assembly on Tuesday.

The motion won the support of 153 countries, with just 10 against. 

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The SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, raised the vote during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Question, asking Mr Sunak for his “Christmas message for children being bombed in Gaza this winter.”

“Nobody wants to see this conflict go on for a moment,” the Prime Minister replied. “We urgently need more humanitarian pauses to get all the hostages out and to get life-saving aid into Gaza to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. 

“And we've been consistent that we support what is a sustainable ceasefire which means Hamas must stop launching rockets into Israel and release all the hostages.”

The SNP leader said the situation in the Middle East was intolerable, and that if the Israeli government continued as it had been then "1,400 more children will die between now and Christmas Day." 

He added: “Now in the United Nations last night, our friends and allies in France and Ireland and Canada and Spain and in Australia, they joined with 148 other nations to vote with courage, care and compassion for a ceasefire. 

“The UK shamefully abstained. How can the Prime Minister possibly explain why 153 nations are wrong, yet Westminster is right?”

Mr Sunak said the government was “deeply concerned about the devastating impact of the fighting in Gaza on the civilian population.” 

“Too many people have lost their lives already,” he added. “And this is something that we've stressed and I've stressed personally to Prime Minister Netanyahu just last week.

“What we are doing practically is to get more aid into Gaza.

"The Foreign Secretary is appointing a UK humanitarian co-ordinator and in my conversations last week with Prime Minister Netanyahu I pressed him on opening up the Kerem Shalom crossing so that more aid can flow in, and we are actively exploring the opportunity for maritime corridors, something the UK is well-placed to lead.

“I can give him my assurance that we will work night and day to get more aid to those who need it.”

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Earlier in the session, the Prime Minister clashed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer over the chaos in the Conservatives. 

“Christmas is a time of peace on earth and goodwill to all – has anyone told the Tory Party?” Sir Keir asked. 

“Christmas is also a time for families, and under the Conservatives we do have a record number of them,” Mr Sunak joked, referring to the so-called “five families,” the name given to the different factions in his party. 

Sir Keir said that while the Tories were fighting amongst themselves there was “a country out here that isn’t being governed”.

He told MPs: “More than 100,000 people are paying hundreds more a month on their mortgages, energy bills going back up in January, the economy shrinking again, NHS waiting lists at an all-time high. 

“Doesn’t he think the Government would be better off fixing the messes they’ve already made, rather than scrambling to make new ones?”

During questions, the Prime Minister also signalled that the Government was “ready to legislate” to ensure Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s single market, but only if devolved government is restored.

The commitment came in response to DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister will be aware of Unionist concerns about the need to remove the Irish sea border created by the protocol and that disrupts the UK’s internal market.

“Will the Prime Minister bring forward legislation to amend the UK Internal Market Act and both guarantee and futureproof Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the UK’s internal market in all scenarios?”

Mr Sunak replied: “I recognise the need to do more in this area and I can confirm to him that the Government does stand ready to legislate to protect Northern Ireland’s integral place in the United Kingdom and the UK internal market, alongside an agreement to restore the executive.

“We can do this at pace and I know he and his colleagues are working hard to achieve that.

“Our NHS, our police officers, and the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland need devolved government urgently and I think it is incumbent on all of us to work day and night to achieve that.”