UN right to speak out on Gaza strike, says Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron: Gaza attack "an appalling loss of life"

The United Nations was right to speak out against an Israeli attack near a UN-run school in Gaza, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

Palestinian officials said at least 10 people died in the attack on Sunday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack "a moral outrage and a criminal act".

Mr Cameron would not say if he agreed with those words. He thought it was "an appalling loss of life", adding that civilians must not be targeted.

He told BBC Breakfast there had to to be an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire", adding that the "fastest way to stop this conflict" would be if Hamas rocket attacks on Israel stopped.

The Foreign Office is investigating reports that a British national has been killed in Gaza.

'International law clear'

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for a political solution to the crisis to be "imposed" by the international community.

Analysis

What is not said can sometimes be as important as what is said. The prime minister talked of "an appalling loss of life" in Gaza.

He said the UN was "right to speak out in the way it has" in condemning the most recent attack near a school as "criminal".

But he refused to say if he agreed with the description used by the secretary general Ban Ki-moon. He certainly did not repeat it.

David Cameron has been criticised by some in his own party for not speaking out against what they think has been the use of "disproportionate" force. If the UK government is criticising Israel in stronger terms, it is not doing it in public.

The foreign secretary has talked of "intolerable" suffering. The development secretary has described a "catastrophe".

But the party lines are drawn. Lib Dem Nick Clegg has said Israel's actions "appear disproportionate". Labour's Ed Miliband has described them as "unacceptable and unjustifiable".

He said: "How many more deaths will it take to stop what must be called the carnage in Gaza? The tradition of friendship between Israel and France is an old one and Israel's right to security is total, but this right does not justify the killing of children and the slaughter of civilians."

Mr Cameron's comments follow a row between Ed Miliband and Downing Street after the Labour leader said the prime minister was "wrong" not to oppose Israel's attacks.

No 10 said it was shocked Mr Miliband would "play politics with such a serious issue".

Health officials in Gaza say 1,800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than 9,000 injured since the conflict began nearly four weeks ago.

Sixty-six Israelis have died, all but two of them soldiers. A Thai national working in Israel was also killed.

Speaking about the recent attack, Mr Cameron said the UK government had been "very clear that there needs to be an immediate, comprehensive, humanitarian ceasefire and that we want this conflict to stop - and we obviously think that it's an appalling the loss of life".

Asked about Mr Ban's comments that the strike was a "moral outrage", the prime minister said: "I think the UN is right to speak out in the way that it has because international law is very clear that there mustn't be the targeting of civilians or the targeting of schools, if that's what's happened."

Pressed on whether international law had been broken, Mr Cameron added: "I'm not an international lawyer... but international law is very, very clear that use of force always has to be proportionate and civilians should not be targeted."

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the killing of civilians and children in Gaza in recent days represented "both a moral failure and a strategic error".

He added: "Hamas displays no regard for human life and must cease firing rockets into Israel and digging tunnels to facilitate the murder of civilians.

"But sustainable security for Israel cannot be achieved simply by permanent blockade, aerial bombardment and periodic ground incursion."

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