UK

John Prescott Says Israel's Gaza Offensive 'A War Crime' After 1,000 Deaths

27/07/2014 10:17 BST | Updated 28/07/2014 19:59 BST

Israel has resumed its offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 1,000 people in less than three weeks - as former deputy prime minister John Prescott calls its "brutally disproportionate and grossly indiscriminate" bombardment a war crime.

Lord Prescott said any other country would be made an international "pariah" if it acted in the same way, as the reported death toll from the offensive against Hamas reached four figures, mainly civilians.

And he directly compared the situation in Gaza with a concentration camp, suggesting the Nazi Holocaust should "give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto".

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through London yesterday at the same time as hostilities were paused for under an uneasy humanitarian truce.

But earlier this morning, Israel confirmed it would resume its assault on the territory. Three Palestinians are reported to have died since then.

Israel had accepted a 24-hour humanitarian truce but said it would act if Hamas continued firing rockets.

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John Prescott said Israel would be a 'pariah' if it continued to act in the same way in Gaza

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Lord Prescott said: "Imagine a country claiming the lives of nearly three times as many as were lost in the MH17 plane tragedy in less than three weeks.

"A nation which blasted a hospital, shelled and killed children from a gunboat as they played football on the beach and was responsible for 1,000 deaths, at least 165 of them children, in just two weeks.

"Surely it would be branded a pariah state, condemned by the United Nations, the US and the UK. The calls for regime change would be -deafening.

"But these howls of protest are muted. The condemnation softened. For this is Israel."

He continued: "Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trots out the same excuses. Hamas 'militants' in Gaza fired their rockets first. Israel has a right to defend itself. It needs to protect its citizens.

"And he's right on all three counts - but as always with Israel this is not the full story. The military action supposedly targeting Hamas is so brutally disproportionate and so grossly indiscriminate that it makes it impossible not to view Israel's actions as war crimes."

He said Hamas was wrong to fire rockets and should recognise Israel's right to exist, but suggested a violent response was inevitable.

"Israel brands them terrorists but it is acting as judge, jury and -executioner in the -concentration camp that is Gaza," he said.

"What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto."

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Two Palestinians weep after returning to their family home to find it destroyed by an Israeli strike

Earlier, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced that the UK is to provide an additional £2 million in emergency assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) Gaza Flash Appeal.

It brings the amount released this week to £7 million, with the money funding basic shelter, blankets, hygiene kits, nappies and other vital supplies for the tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond yesterday issued a reminder to Israel of its obligations under international law to take "all feasible precautions" to avoid civilian casualties after a UN school came under fire, killing at least 15 Palestinians.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show today, Labour leader Ed Miliband said there had to be a "proper ceasefire" and warned Israel that its unacceptable military action was acting as a recruitment campaign for Hamas.

"I'm a friend of Israel and of the Palestinian people, but this is doing no favours to Israel what is happening," he said.

"The Hamas rocket attacks are totally unjustified and appalling. The murder of the three Israeli teenagers was terrible.

"But this is, I'm afraid, a tragic loss of life which I fear is going to recruit more people to Hamas."