Britain’s minister for human rights said he is “deeply concerned” about the latest wave of violence in Gaza, which has left at least 33 Palestinians dead.
“I remain deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza, and in particular by the high number of Palestinian deaths in recent weeks,” Lord Ahmad said on his return from a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
“With the Palestinian leadership I reaffirmed the right of the Gazan people, as indeed all peoples, to protest peacefully,” he continued.
Lord Ahmad's comments came as at least eight Palestinians were injured in clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as thousands gathered for a third consecutive Friday of protests.
Israeli forces have killed 33 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others on the two previous days of protest on March 30 and April 6, when soldiers used live fire, rubber bullets and tear gas.
The protests will culminate on the May 15 anniversary of Israel's establishment, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe, when 700,000 fled or were expelled by Israeli forces.
Hamas have controlled Gaza since 2006 and have fought three wars with Israel since. Lord Ahmad pointed the finger of blame at Hamas fighters, saying: “It is important to understand the role Hamas continues to play in fomenting the violence.”
He added: “The UK recognises that Israel has the right to protect its borders against Hamas and other terrorist groups but as I said to Israeli ministers, they must show restraint and consider carefully its use of force in response to future protests.”
The minister said that in his meetings with Palestinians in the West Bank, he heard from human rights workers about the impact of Israel’s occupation. He also highlighted the assistance that British aid is providing to some of the most vulnerable Palestinian people.
“I had a positive first meeting with Prime Minister Hamdallah to discuss these issues, the situation in Gaza and reaffirm the UK’s commitment to strengthening the UK-Palestinian Authority relationship,” he said.
In his meetings with various Israeli ministers, he also raised Britain’s human rights concerns relating to the occupation, including the issue of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
Lord Ahmad concluded by urging the need for a two-state solution to end the violence and bloodshed in the region.
“My visit illustrated the urgent need for progress towards a two-state solution, so that Israelis and Palestinians can finally live with the peace and dignity they deserve.”