‘Almost impossible for Gazans to shelter from Israeli strikes’
JERUSALEM: Britain is “gravely concerned” by the high number of civilian casualties resulting from Israel’s military operation in Gaza, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday.
Speaking on his first official visit to the region since taking over as Britain’s top diplomat, Hammond said London would do everything it could to help broker a quick end to the hostilities.
At a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hammond expressed Britain’s support for Israel’s right to self-defense, acknowledging that the current fighting was caused by Hamas firing rockets “indiscriminately” at Israeli towns and cities.
“But we are gravely concerned by the ongoing heavy level of civilian causalities,” he said.
“We want to see a cease-fire quickly agreed. We welcomed the earlier cease-fire proposal by Egypt and we were grateful to you, prime minister, for your immediate agreement to it.
“We are disappointed that Hamas has apparently once again rejected cease-fire proposals.”
The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights published figures on Wednesday showing more than 80 percent of the casualties were civilians, and a quarter of them children.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos expressed deep concern Thursday about the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, telling BBC radio that it was “almost impossible” for Palestinians to shelter from Israeli airstrikes.
Netanyahu said a decision by the UN’s Human Rights Council to probe Israel’s actions in Gaza while ignoring Palestinian rocket fire on Israel, was “grotesque,” vowing that it would not stop Israel from acting to defend itself.
French President Francois Hollande announced on Thursday an 11-million-euro ($14.8 million) aid package to the besieged Gaza Strip.
An adviser to Hollande said the humanitarian aid, eight million of which will be given to the Palestinian Authority and the remainder to UN bodies and NGOs working in Gaza, was approved after a meeting with non-governmental organizations working in the strife-torn region.
Meanwhile, calls for a boycott of a prominent Turkish author of Jewish descent over Israel’s assault in Gaza have been denounced by politicians in Turkey as a “hate crime.”
A social media campaign for a boycott of Israeli products sparked a storm of criticism on Thursday after there were calls to include works by acclaimed Turkish-Jewish novelist Mario Levi. Culture Minister Omer Celik described the “provocations” against Levi as a “hate crime,” while warning Turkish citizens against taking out their anger on the country’s 17,000 strong Jewish community.