July 17, 2014 / 12:16 PM / 5 years ago

British Deputy PM: Israel's Gaza response 'collective punishment'

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, points during a question and answer session after delivering a speech on international development, in London May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - Israel’s retaliatory air strikes on Gaza have been “deliberately disproportionate” and amount to “collective punishment”, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Thursday, in unusually robust criticism of a close British ally

Clegg made his comments on the tenth day of fighting between Israel and Hamas during a five-hour humanitarian truce which prompted a temporary halt to Israel’s air strikes as well as rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza into Israel.

“I really do think now the Israeli response appears to be deliberately disproportionate, it is amounting now to a disproportionate form of collective punishment,” Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the country’s coalition, told Britain’s LBC radio station.

“I really would now call on the Israel Government to stop. They’ve proved their point,” he said. He said he respected Israel’s right to defend itself.

Gaza health officials say at least 224 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting. In Israel, one civilian has been killed by rocket fire from Gaza, where the Israeli military says more than 1,300 rockets have been launched into the Jewish state.

The current conflict was largely triggered by the killing of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank last month and the death on July 2 of a Palestinian youth in a suspected revenge murder.

Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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