UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly expanded the country's sanctions regime against Iran
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Image/AFP News AFP News

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has confirmed that up to 10 British nationals are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Earlier estimates suggested that the number of Britons held by the militant organisation was six.

During an interview with Sky News on Sunday, Cleverly admitted that it was "not an unreasonable estimate". He further stated that it has proven "incredibly difficult" to open the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

The Rafah crossing is controlled by Egypt and is the only crossing available to those looking to flee the region after Hamas' unprecedented attack on Israel.

"We stay in very close coordination with the United States of America, with other friends in the region and of course with the Israeli government trying to coordinate a time window when the Rafah crossing can be opened so that people can leave," he said.

Meanwhile, the UK government has sent additional intelligence personnel to the region in an attempt to rescue its citizens.

Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, to get the Rafah crossing opened. But the government has not been able to achieve it yet.

The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) is in contact with the families and individuals stranded in Israel and Palestinian territories in Gaza. According to an estimate, 50,000–60,000 Britons and dual nationals live in Israel and Gaza.

As many as 17 British nationals, including children, have been reported dead or missing in Israel.

It also needs to be noted that the UK has no direct diplomatic contact with Hamas. Countries like Qatar and Iran have been playing the role of intermediaries in negotiations.

The US, Israel, and Egypt have been holding talks to provide a safe passage for civilians from Gaza, according to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

On Sunday, the death toll surpassed that of the third war between Israel and Hamas in 2014, according to the United Nations. It is the deadliest war for Israel since the 1973 conflict with Egypt and Syria.

As many as 2,329 Palestinians and over 1,300 Israelis have been killed since the latest fighting erupted between Israel and Hamas last week.

The United Nations has also warned of "devastating consequences" and has asked the Israeli Defence Forces to take back the mass relocation order. "The UN considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences," it said. The UN also reported that at least 123,000 people have been displaced in Gaza.