Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

Stars call for ceasefire in Gaza

Campaigners including Annie Lennox and Alexei Sayle voiced their concerns

Singer Annie Lennox has joined high-profile campaigners to call for an end to Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip.

At a news conference in London, she said TV footage of the attacks, which have killed more than 400 people, had left her "shaken to the core".

Comedian Alexei Sayle said Jewish people in the public eye should stress this was "not being done in our name".

Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is demanding a meeting with Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The MCB, the country's largest Muslim group, has refused to attend a Foreign Office briefing on the situation in Gaza and instead want to speak to Mr Miliband directly.

Deputy secretary-general Dr Daud Abdullah said he found it "incomprehensible" that the British government, and the US, did not approve a Security Council vote calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Human values

The news conference was called ahead of Saturday's demonstration when thousands of people are expected to join a rally in central London to demand an immediate end to the Israeli attacks.

The violence in the Middle East has continued for a week, with both sides ignoring international calls for a ceasefire.

At least 13,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Gaza since the attacks started, according to Save the Children.

On Friday, Israel continued to bomb targets in Gaza, including a mosque.

But, says Israel, Palestinian military group Hamas has also fired more rockets into Israel.

We will be very, very lucky if the explosions taking place in Gaza today don't blow up in our own face at some time in the future

George Galloway, Respect MP

In an emotional speech, Annie Lennox said there had to be a different way forward.

"A few days after Christmas I came downstairs, put the television on and saw smoke pyres emanating from buildings and it shook me to the core," she said.

"I was thinking, as a mother and as a human being, how was this going to be a solution to peace?

"It's a question of human rights, human values that goes beyond Jewish, Muslim, nothing to do with any of that. There has to be a place ultimately where people come to the table."

In a strongly-worded condemnation of Israeli bombing, Jewish comedian Alexei Sayle said Israel has an idea it was being noble but was using the "psychology of the murderer" to explain the attacks.

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone called for the European Union and the UK to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel to signal disapproval with the "slaughter and systematic murder of innocent Arabs".

Appeal to Obama

Respect MP George Galloway suggested Israel's attacks would create a new generation of radicals around the world.

"We will be very, very lucky if the explosions taking place in Gaza today don't blow up in our own face at some time in the future," he said.

Meanwhile, activist Bianca Jagger condemned the attack by Hamas against innocent Israeli citizens, but called for the international community to guarantee the immediate halt of the "disproportionate, unlawful use of force by Israel".

She added: "I would like to make an appeal to President-elect Obama to speak up.

"People throughout the world were hopeful when he was elected and we must appeal to him to ask for the immediate cessation of the bombardment of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip."

Earlier, more than 100 protesters gathered outside Egypt's London embassy demanding the country fully open its border with Gaza to allow humanitarian aid in and let the sick and injured out so they could go to hospital.

General Secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Betty Hunter said: "Egypt has to stop colluding with Israel and do this now."

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific