MPs accuse Israel of targeting civilians

Palestinian protesters carry an injured man who was shot by Israeli troops. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Palestinian protesters carry an injured man who was shot by Israeli troops. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed that peaceful Gaza protests have been “exploited by extremists” as MPs from all parties yesterday condemned Israel’s use of force against civilians that has seen 58 people killed and thousands injured.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused Israel of a “calculated and deliberate policy to kill and maim unarmed protesters”.

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But Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, insisted Israeli soldiers used live fire in a “measured” and “surgical” way, and claimed that militant group Hamas instigated the protests to “breach the border, to get inside Israel and to kill Israeli citizens”.

On Monday, Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 during protests along the border – while a few miles away US president Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka was taking part in a ceremony in Jerusalem for the opening of the controversial new US embassy.

Following the weekly Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said ministers were “extremely concerned” by the scale of the violence, describing the loss of life and injuries to the Palestinians as “tragic”.

Addressing the Commons over the growing crisis in Gaza, the Foreign Secretary insisted the UK remains committed to a two-state Israel-Palestine solution, with Jerusalem as the shared capital.

Middle East minister Alistair Burt said the UK has so far received “no information” to suggest that UK-supplied equipment has been used against protesters, amid calls from opposition MPs to suspend arms sales to Israel.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson told MPs: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of life in Gaza, where peaceful protests are being exploited by extremists. I urge Israel to show restraint in the use of live fire and I take this opportunity to repeat the UK’s commitment to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared ­capital.”

Putting an urgent question to the Foreign Secretary, Ms Thornberry said many Palestinians had been “shot in the back … hundreds of metres from the border”, with children among those killed and injured.

Conservative Sir Nicholas Soames said Israel’s actions were a “wholly unacceptable and excessive use of force” and called for “a little less limp response” from the Foreign Office.

SNP MP Stephen Gethins said the conflict was not helped by the “reckless move” of the US embassy to Jerusalem. However, a number of Conservative MPs defended Israel, with Ross Thomson accusing Hamas of “using civilians as a cover to incite violence”.

The Aberdeen South MP said: “We have seen Hamas officials actively encouraging protesters to be martyrs, bussing rioters to the border for them to sling Molotov cocktails and fire bombs.”