Israel attacks on Gaza 'foolish' and 'disproportionate' - Ashdown

Israeli air strikes in Rafah, Gaza, on 1 August 2014 The two sides have blamed each other for the end of the ceasefire

The ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats has called Israel's attacks on Gaza "foolish" and "disproportionate".

Lord Ashdown was joined by Deputy PM Nick Clegg, who called for peace talks and an end to the violence.

Later, Labour leader Ed Miliband denounced the Israeli offensive as "wrong and unjustifiable" and said David Cameron should have opposed it.

It comes after a short-lived ceasefire collapsed and Israel said it would make Hamas pay an "intolerable price".

More than 1,600 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 65 Israelis, all but two soldiers, have been killed since the conflict began more than three weeks ago.

'Silence'

Mr Miliband said the prime minister was "wrong" not to have opposed Israel's incursion into Gaza and his "silence" on the killing of civilians was "inexplicable".

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Cameron had been clear that both sides in the conflict should observe a ceasefire.

"We are shocked that Ed Miliband would seek to misrepresent that position and play politics with such a serious issue," he said.

A car under the wreckage of a building Israel says its target is Hamas, but Gaza's health ministry says most victims have been civilians

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Lord Ashdown said neither Israel nor Palestine could "blast their way to victory" and that the only way forward was for them to "sit down and talk to each other".

Lord Ashdown said negotiations between Israel and Hamas may not be pleasant, but he compared the situation to the conflicts in Bosnia and Northern Ireland where peace deals were brokered.

"In Bosnia particularly, you had to talk to very unpleasant people," he said.

"[Former Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic was not the kind of person you would invite round to dinner but you had to talk to him."

Lord Ashdown, formerly the UK's special representative in Bosnia, said Israel had been "very foolish" to launch its military strikes given it had the "best anti-missile system in the world".

He said Israel had lost the "support and sympathy of world opinion".

Had UK troops in Afghanistan or Northern Ireland retaliated to civilian attacks and fired back, they would have been "guilty of a crime", he said.

'Tunnels to terrorise'

The former Lib Dem leader echoed comments by the current party leader Mr Clegg, who said Israel's action "appeared disproportionate".

Writing in the Guardian, he said: "If Israel wants to secure lasting safety for its people, it must use political will, not military might, to break the cycle of violence."

He also criticised Hamas, saying it used its tunnels to "terrorise Israeli civilians".

A UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire, intended to last 72 hours, ended on Friday after less than five hours, with each side blaming the other.

Scores of people are reported to have been killed in fresh clashes while Israeli forces are searching for a soldier, named as Hadar Goldin, 23, who went missing on Friday.

Hadar Goldin The Israeli army says Lt Goldin went missing in an attack in southern Gaza on Friday morning

Israel says it is defending itself from attacks by Palestinian militants and blames Hamas for civilian deaths in Gaza, saying fighters deliberately operate from civilian areas.

Critics of Israel's actions say Gaza is so densely populated any conflict there will inevitably affect civilian areas and cause civilian casualties.

'Difficult to justify'

A former defence minister earlier became the latest Tory MP to call on No 10 to take a firmer stance on the crisis.

Peter Luff, who was a defence minister between 2010 and 2012, said Israel's actions were "brutal" and "difficult to justify".

He said the Israeli government had an "absolute right" to protect its people from rocket attacks, but the reported death toll of more than 1,600 Gaza residents - including hundreds of children - was unacceptable.

Other Tory MPs to raise concerns in recent days include former Foreign Office minister Alastair Burt and Margot James, a parliamentary aide to Commons leader William Hague.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said both sides had to act proportionately and that agreeing a ceasefire was priority.

Meanwhile, International Development Secretary Justine Greening described the situation in Gaza as "nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe".

The UK is sending a further £3m for aid in Gaza - bringing its total to at least £10m.

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  12.  
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  20.  
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  37.  
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    • The Labour leader also asks the PM to say if he will take part in a head-to-head TV election debate. Mr Cameron says "we're having a debate now" and in terms of the TV events, he wants to "get on with the debates before the election campaign"
    • Nigel Farage has given a big speech outlining his desire to return immigration to "normal" levels, with between 20,000 and 50,000 migrants given work permits each year.
    • But the UKIP leader has spent much of the morning insisting he hasn't performed a U-turn on the issue of whether he's setting a formal immigration cap. His spokesman Steven Woolfe said last week he wanted a cap of 50,000, but Mr Farage says he - and the public - have "had enough of caps and targets".
    • Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell has paid £80,000 in damages to Pc Toby Rowland, the office at the centre of the plebgate row
    • The Liberal Democrats' manifesto will include a pledge to hand drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health, Nick Clegg is to say.
     
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  41.  
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  43.  
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  44.  
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  46.  
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  47.  
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  48.  
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  49.  
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  50.  
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  51.  
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  52.  
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  53.  
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  54.  
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  55.  
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  56.  
    12:25: Pic: Opposition benches
    David Cameron faces the opposition benches

    David Cameron faces the opposition benches.

     
  57.  
    @gabyhinsliff Gaby Hinsliff, Grazia

    tweets: Seriously unconvinced there's any point whatsoever to #pmqs at this point in the electoral cycle.

     
  58.  
    @IsabelHardman Isabel Hardman, The Spectator

    tweets: That sound is the nails being screwed into the coffin of the TV debates #PMQs. Or else it's the sound of Labour MPs making chicken noises

     
  59.  
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  60.  
    @JGForsyth James Forsyth, the Spectator

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  61.  
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC News

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  62.  
    12:21: Nuclear weapons

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  63.  
    12:19: David Ward question

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  64.  
    @paulwaugh Paul Waugh, Politics Home

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  65.  
    12:18: In touch?

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  66.  
    @IainDale Iain Dale, presenter of LBC Drivetime

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  67.  
    12:17: Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian

    tweets: My snap PMQs verdict - PM's bluster machine on overdrive, but Miliband had him bang to rights

     
  68.  
    12:17: Cancer referrals

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  69.  
    12:16: Pic: Miliband asks a question
    House of Commons
     
  70.  
    12:14: TV debates?

    Ed Miliband tries once again, asking the PM if he will commit to the debates - which is met with the same reply from the PM, who adds that Mr Miliband wants to avoid debating with the Greens. This gives him the chance to joke that Labour's leader had seen Natalie Bennett's "car crash" interview last week as a "master class". That brings the leaders' exchanges to a close.

     
  71.  
    12:12: TV debates?

    "So it's all about leadership?" responds Ed Miliband - which gets cheers from the Tory backbenchers. The Labour leader changes subjects, and goes on the attack over TV election debates, asking the PM if he will commit to the proposed head-to-head debate with him on 30 April. Mr Cameron does not say he will take part, saying "we're having a debate now" and says Miliband can't talk about jobs or the economy because of the government's success.

     
  72.  
    12:10: Election leaflets

    The PM takes a swipe at Ed Miliband whom he says Labour MPs do not want to feature on their election leaflets. He asks for a show of hands for those going to feature Mr Miliband on their leaflets. Lots of arms are raised on the Conservative benches.

     
  73.  
    12:11: Speaker calls for order House of Commons Parliament
    John Bercow

    Speaker John Bercow tries to quieten noisy MPs, telling them they should consider what their rowdiness looks like to the public, whose votes they will be seeking soon.

     
  74.  
    @DJack_Journo David Jack, The Times

    tweets: Cheeky of Miliband to attack Cam on migration given Labour's open-doors policy #PMQs

     
  75.  
    @georgeeaton George Eaton, The New Statesman

    tweets: Challenge for Miliband is to criticise Cameron for breaking a promise without appearing anti-immigration. #PMQs

     
  76.  
    12:08: UKIP immigration policy

    UKIP's immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe says the party's points-based system will work like someone "submitting a CV". "People from anywhere across the world, irrespective of whatever culture, creed, nationality you are, goes onto our system whether its online or through an organisation helping them and puts in their application," he says.

    "If they fit the points they go through to the next stage. Then the Commission will work out what sort of numbers we need for each year. If it says we need 50,000 people that year then we'll have 50,000 visa available and that goes through those people that have passed."

     
  77.  
    12:07: Speaker speaks

    Speaker Bercow is on his feet again, and calls for order (it's getting pretty rowdy in the chamber). Over to Ed Miliband, who says the PM must admit he has broken his promise. David Cameron says he has cut migration from outside the EU but that it has risen from within the EU. He's back to his list of commitments met again.

     
  78.  
    12:07: Promises kept

    After Ed Miliband accuses David Cameron of breaking his promise to cut net migration, the PM reels off a list of pledges that he says the government has honoured - much to his backbenchers' delight. Speaker John Bercow cuts him off for taking too long, opening the floor to Ed Miliband who says Mr Cameron's promise on immigration was not worth the paper it's written on.

     
  79.  
    12:06: Pic: Miliband waves migration pledge
    Ed Miliband
     
  80.  
    @Kevin_Maguire Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

    tweets: Cameron again refuses to say if he discussed tax avoidance with Lord Green. He did/didn't*(*delete according to politics) #pmqs

     
  81.  
    12:06: Cameron hits back

    David Cameron adds that he wants to keep the economy strong but change the benefits system. Labour wants to protect the benefits system and trash the economy, he adds.

     
  82.  
    12:04: Miliband on immigration

    Ed Miliband is on his feet and begins his questioning on immigration. He says the PM made a "no ifs, no buts" promise to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands and had said people should vote him out if he didn't keep it but now it's higher than when he took office, he says. David Cameron says the strength of the UK economy and the benefits system were the reasons why migration had gone up.

     
  83.  
    @Markfergusonuk Mark Ferguson, Labour List

    tweets: Lots of empty space on the green benches today #pmqs

     
  84.  
    12:02: Lord Green kicks it off

    The first question to the PM comes from Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who asks David Cameron to clarify whether he or the chancellor had a conversation with former trade minister Lord Green about HSBC's tax affairs. David Cameron responds by saying all the proper checks were made on Lord Green's appointment, and that Labour had employed him as a trade adviser.

     
  85.  
    12:02: Pic: David Cameron
    David Cameron
     
  86.  
    @Mike_Fabricant Michael Fabricant, Tory MP

    tweets: Am told that tomorrow is World Erotic Book Day. Shall I ask at #PMQs what the PM will do to mark it? (Maybe not).

     
  87.  
    12:00: Likely subjects? Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Guardian commentator Nick Watt offers his predictions on Ed Miliband's line of questioning at this week's PMQs. He thinks the Labour leader would be on more comfortable ground if he goes on David Cameron's "failure" to meet the net migration target, rather than this morning's IFS report on household incomes.

     
  88.  
    11:59: Pic: Cameron in the House
    David Cameron
     
  89.  
    11:57: UKIP immigration policy 'consistent' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Tim Aker, UKIP MEP and parliamentary candidate for Thurrock, rejects assertions that UKIP has changed its mind on its immigration policy. He says the party has been "consistent", and that its target is to bring immigration under control.

     
  90.  
    @AngusMacNeilMP Angus MacNeil, SNP

    tweets: Interesting on @bbc5live panel..Farage claims of UK being most crowded country contradicted by Reckless who agreed with me - Netherlands is!

     
  91.  
    11:54: UKIP and Channel 4

    UKIP's Steven Woolfe gets a double round of applause as he says "when UKIP come into power, when we win this election... and when we do so Channel 4 by the way, I will be the immigration spokesman not the fantasy person you created."

     
  92.  
    11:52: Stephen Crabb House of Commons Parliament
    Stephen Crabb

    Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb answers questions in the Commons.

     
  93.  
    11:49: Tuition fees Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    On tuition fees, Labour front bencher Hilary Benn rejects the notion that Labour's policy - to reduce them from £9,000 to £6,000 - is "unravelling". He contends that Labour is on the side of students.

     
  94.  
    11:47: Lib Dem electoral fortunes Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Lib Dem party president Tim Farron is pressed over the party's prospects at the forthcoming election. He thinks predictions the Lib Dems will lose up to 30 seats will not prove accurate. He says if the election is a "difficult experience" and the party comes through it "then the leader deserves all the credit for bringing us through it".

     
  95.  
    @daily_politics 11:47: DailySundayPolitics
    Opinion polls tracker

    tweets: Here are the poll graphics from #bbcdp debate with @afneil @Jo_Coburn @claire4devizes @timfarron @hilarybennmp

     
  96.  
    11:47: Household incomes Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The first subject under discussion is this morning's IFS report which says average household incomes are back to where they were before the financial crisis. Conservative minister Claire Perry welcomes the report's findings and says the trend on the cost of living is "really improving".

     
  97.  
    11:47: Labour tribute to Hain and Murphy

    Shadow Wales secretary Owen Smith also pays tribute to departing Welsh MPs. He notes that the list includes two former Labour secretaries of state: Peter Hain and Paul Murphy.

    Owen Smith
     
  98.  
    11:43: Pic: UKIP's Steven Woolfe
    Steven Woolfe at UKIP immigration speech

    UKIP's immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe is speaking now. As you can see the party's slogan is Believe in Britain.

     
  99.  
    11:43: Farage speech on immigration

    Mr Farage says that over 600,000 people came to settle in the UK last year. That's true - the figures from the Office for National Statistics show that immigration was up to 624,000 in the year to September 2014 from 530,000 in the previous 12 months. About 327,000 people emigrated from the UK in the same period. That left a net migration figure of 289,000, which is the one mostly talked about when politicians debate immigration levels.

     
  100.  
    11:38: MPs standing down House of Commons Parliament

    Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb tells MPs that this is the last Wales Office questions before the general election. He pays tribute to eight MPs in Wales who are standing down in May, saying they have "served their constituencies with distinction".

     

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