Israeli military response to Gaza protests was surgical: Ambassador

Israeli forces used live fire in a "measured" and "surgical" way, the country's ambassador to the UK claimed as the British government called for restraint after violence which claimed dozens of lives.

Ambassador Mark Regev said 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".

Mark Regev, Israel's Ambassador to the United Kingdom (Yui Mok/PA)
Mark Regev, Israel's Ambassador to the United Kingdom (Yui Mok/PA)

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We use live fire only in a very measured way, in a very surgical way and only when there is no alternative."

He added: "If we allow the Hamas terrorists to enter Israel, we will have dead Israelis. We must protect our border."

Challenged on the conditions faced by Palestinians living in Gaza, he acknowledged they "live a very difficult life", but "that's because they live in a prison controlled by Hamas - a theocratic, authoritarian regime that instead of investing its energy and its resources into building a better life for the people of Gaza invests its efforts in a holy war - their words, not mine - against Israel".

On Monday, 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.

Labour MP Wes Streeting said: "If, as Israel's ambassador claims, yesterday's action was 'measured and surgical' then I'd hate to see what he thinks 'unmeasured and indiscriminate' looks like.

"There can be no doubt about what Hamas is and what it represents. But here's an uncomfortable truth: Hamas has no better friend or recruiting sergeant than this Israeli Government."

Middle East Minister Alistair Burt said: "We will not waver from our support for Israel's right to defend its borders.

"But the large volume of live fire is extremely concerning. We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint."

Extremely saddened by loss of life in Gaza today. Concerned peaceful protests are being exploited by extremist elements. Urge restraint in use of live fire. Violence is destructive to peace efforts. UK remains committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.

-- Alistair Burt (@AlistairBurtUK) May 14, 2018

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue."

Palestinians were observing a general strike to mourn those killed in the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war.

Organisers said the day would be set aside for funerals and that turnout for any new protests on the border with Israel would be low.

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