Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Brown condemns Gaza attack on UN

Gordon Brown: 'attack indefensible'

Gordon Brown has said an Israeli attack on a United Nations building in Gaza was "indefensible" and reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire.

There were 700 people sheltering in the UN relief agency compound when it was hit by rocket shells and caught fire.

Israel has apologised to the UN for the incident but maintained that Hamas fighters were firing from the site.

Mr Brown said "no-one could defend" the attack which, he added, showed a ceasefire was "absolutely essential".

UN staff are working on behalf of the international community - any attack on them is unacceptable as Israel has acknowledged
Gordon Brown

Mr Brown made the remarks after meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at which the situation in Gaza was discussed.

"Today's attack on the UN headquarters in Gaza is indefensible," he said.

"The UN's mission in Gaza is purely humanitarian, bringing relief to civilians suffering in appalling conditions as a result of the ongoing military action.

"UN staff are working on behalf of the international community - any attack on them is unacceptable as Israel has acknowledged.

"The intensification of Israeli military action, and continued Hamas rocket attacks, reinforce the urgency of our call for an immediate ceasefire."

In the House of Commons, foreign minister Bill Rammell described the incident as "unacceptable".

Speaking later to UN general secretary Ban Ki Moon, Mr Brown reiterated the UK's "unwavering support" for international efforts to bring an end to the violence on both sides.

The PM said he believed proposals to end the smuggling of weapons into Gaza from Egypt and effective monitoring of border crossings - the subject of intense negotiations in recent days - could be "accepted" by all sides.



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