Labour leader Ed Miliband today called for a “halt to violence on both sides”, calling the deaths of the past few days “horrifying”, and warning a full-scale ground invasion by Israel would be a “disaster” for both Gaza and Israel.
“The deaths in Gaza and Israel are horrifying. It is a very dangerous moment not just for Israel and the Palestinians but for the region. A halt to violence on both sides is now absolutely critical.
“A full scale ground invasion would be a disaster for the peoples of both Gaza and Israel. It would damage profoundly hopes for peace and security and could lead to another humanitarian crisis.”
“Both sides, regional players and the international community – including the UK government – share a profound moral duty to do everything possible to prevent such a catastrophic development. Every effort must be made through the United Nations, the Quartet, The Arab League and the wider international community to reverse decisively the unfolding dynamic of events.
“Time is now very short to avert another catastrophe.”
Latest reports say at least 26 people have died in the Gaza Strip in recent hours as Israeli forces kept up air strikes which they say are aimed at stopping rocket attacks into Israel. Fewer rockets have been launched by Hamas, but Israeli towns are still being hit.
The BBC reports:
Ninety-five Palestinians and three Israelis have died in six days of violence, the latest including a militant group commander.
Efforts to secure a ceasefire continue, with a senior Egyptian official saying there are “encouraging signs”. Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of the Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a ceasefire but that it was up to Israel to stop the war that, he said, it had started.
Israel immediately denied making any such request, Reuters news agency reported.
Mr Meshaal said that a truce was possible in Gaza, as was further escalation of the conflict.
Egypt has been leading efforts to broker a peace deal, with both senior Israeli and Hamas officials in Cairo for talks. An Egyptian official said he hoped to be able to make an announcement on Monday or Tuesday. The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, says it is feared the conflict might get worse before any truce is agreed.
Since the conflict began, 877 rockets were fired towards Israel – 570 hit Israel and 307 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, the IDF says.
Before the recent offensive, Israel had repeatedly carried out air strikes on Gaza as Palestinian militants fired rockets across the border. But the aerial and naval bombardment is its most intense assault on the territory since Israel launched a full-scale invasion four years ago.