BEIRUT

Middle East

Britain 'extremely concerned' by Gaza deaths

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant Mohammed Sweilem, whom medics said was killed in an Israeli airstrike, during his funeral at Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip July 12, 2014. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Saturday that he was "extremely concerned" about the loss of life in Gaza, where five days of Israeli air strikes have killed more than 120 Palestinians.

"Extremely concerned about humanitarian situation and loss of life in Gaza. Speaking to President Abbas today," Hague said on Twitter.

The Foreign Office confirmed the tweet and said that a fuller statement would be issued later.

Hague's statement represents a departure from the British government stance so far which has unequivocally backed Israel's right to launch airstrikes in response to rocket attacks by Hamas militants based in Gaza.

British Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday spoke to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu to show "staunch support" and "underlined Israel's right to defend itself from them", his Downing Street office said.

Israel has vowed no let up in its air campaign to halt the rocket attacks, while a defiant Hamas has rejected international calls to halt hostilities, insisting Israel must act first.

Diplomatic efforts to stop the violence have also seen U.S. President Barack Obama telephoning Netanyahu and Washington offering to use its relationships in the Middle East to bring about a return to calm.

Despite international concern, truce efforts have been unsuccessful, according to Egypt, which has been key in mediating previous cease-fires between Hamas and Israel.

 

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