Theresa May has said the violence in Gaza, which has so far seen 58 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops, is “destructive to peace efforts” as she described the loss of life as “tragic and extremely concerning”.
Speaking alongside Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan following talks at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the situation in Gaza and the West Bank was “troubling” as she urged all sides to show restraint.
“The loss of life we have seen is tragic and extremely concerning,” she said. “Such violence is destructive to peace efforts and we call on all sides to show restraint.
“There is an urgent need to establish the facts of what happened yesterday through an independent and transparent investigation, including why such a volume of live fire was used and what role Hamas played in events.
“Palestinians have the right to protest, but these protests must be peaceful. We are concerned that extremist elements are seeking to hijack legitimate protests to further their own objectives.
“While we do not question the right of Israel to defend its borders, the use of live fire and the resulting loss of life is deeply troubling. We urge Israel to show restraint.
“It is in everyone’s interests for peace and stability to prevail in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The British government has called for an independent investigation into what happened on Monday when Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians, most by gunfire, and injured more than 2,700 during protests along the border – while a few miles away a ceremony was taking place in Jerusalem for the opening of the controversial new US embassy.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, told MPs today the “horrific massacre” appeared to be the result of a “calculated and deliberate policy to kill and maim unarmed protesters who pose no threat”.
Her comments echoed a Downing Street statement earlier in the day.
MP Sir Nicholas Soames demanded the Foreign Office give a “less limp response” to Israel in the wake of the deaths. Layla Moran, the first MP of Palestinian descent, said hope had “died” this week.
But the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, this morning defended the use of force as “measured” and “surgical”.
He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme Israel “did everything we could” to avoid the bloodshed at the border with Gaza, which saw soldiers open fire on protesters.
The diplomat insisted that the protests were organised by militant group Hamas with an aim to “breach the border, to get inside Israel and to kill Israeli citizens”.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Israel and the United States at a meeting in London with May over Monday’s deadly, accusing the Israelis of committing a “horrible massacre”.
Seated alongside the prime minister inside 10 Downing Street, Erdogan said: “While we are focusing our talks on the Syria issue, yesterday unfortunately significant incidents have unfolded in Palestine after the US decided to move their embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
“We are facing significant challenges and there are a lot of martyrs. There are more than 2,000 wounded and more than 50 casualties.
“Unfortunately while Israel was busy undertaking this horrible massacre, unfortunately the United States paved the way for this and laid the foundations.”
Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour would review UK arms sales to Israel if it was in government. “We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law,” he said.