James Cleverly calls for de-escalation as Israel launches attack in Lebanon

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The UK appealed for de-escalation as Israel launched strikes in southern Lebanon and bombed targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation at rocket attacks.

The cross-border fighting, while Jews are celebrating the Passover holiday and Muslims are marking Ramadan, erupted following violent scenes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon came after militants fired nearly three dozen rockets from there.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said both sides in the Israel-Palestine dispute should “recommit themselves to a negotiated settlement”.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Fire and smoke rise following an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza Strip on Friday (Fatima Shbair/AP)

“Now is the time for all parties across the region to de-escalate tensions.

“At the convergence of Passover, Ramadan and Easter, the UK calls for all parties to respect the historic status quo arrangements at Jerusalem’s holy sites and cease all provocative action.

“The UK is a strong supporter of freedom of religion or belief and calls for places of worship to be respected.

“We value Jordan’s important role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem and condemns the Israeli police violence at the Al Aqsa Mosque.

“When Israeli security forces conduct operations, they must ensure they are proportionate and in accordance with international law.”

In Jerusalem violence flared again at the Al Aqsa Mosque before dawn prayers, with Israeli police stationed at one of the gates forcibly dispersing vast crowds of worshippers who chanted praise for Hamas.

Human rights campaign group Amnesty International UK criticised Mr Cleverly’s response.

The charity’s Kristyan Benedict said: “James Cleverly’s belated response to shocking Israeli violence against Palestinians at Al Aqsa Mosque isn’t just weak and tokenistic – it’s also dangerously misguided because it effectively isolates individual incidents of violence from the overall context, which is decades of apartheid, occupation and systematic injustice against the Palestinian people.

“Despite the Foreign Secretary’s usual platitudes about ‘peace’ and ‘de-escalation’, the UK continues to oppose vital international measures such as the ongoing ICC (International Criminal Court) investigation, designed to bring justice and accountability for Israeli and Palestinian civilians.”

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