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Gaza fund donations double after TV channels broadcast appeal

Donations to an emergency fund for Gaza doubled overnight after three TV channels broadcast an appeal that the BBC and Sky News have refused to show.

Members of the public have now pledged over £1 million to help tackle the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said.

Terrestrial broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five showed the DEC's televised appeal for donations last night.

More than 100 MPs from all parties have signed an early day motion criticising the decision taken by BBC and Sky News not to air the three-minute film.

Demonstrators last night staged protests at the BBC's Broadcasting House in central London, burning their TV licences and occupying the building's reception until they were removed by police.

The DEC, an umbrella organisation for 13 humanitarian aid agencies, said today it was "delighted" with the response to its appeal.

DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said: "We really do appreciate the support of the British public who have shown their generosity when confronted with scenes of a dire humanitarian emergency.

"Their donations will improve the lives of so many civilians caught up in a conflict that was not of their making.

"But there are many more people who need our help. I urge anyone who has not yet donated to give what they can afford.

"All the money raised will go directly to helping the innocent families in Gaza who have been left without basic everyday necessities that we take for granted such as food, shelter and healthcare."

Richard Burden, the Labour MP who tabled the early day motion, criticised the arguments put forward by BBC managers to explain their decision as "unconvincing and contradictory".

"Viewers and listeners can see the difference between a humanitarian appeal and politics - even if the BBC and Sky management cannot," he said.

"BBC and Sky bosses have the power to make the editorial decisions they want. The rest of us have the right to say they are wrong."

BBC director general Mark Thompson said the decision not to broadcast the appeal was "absolutely" in line with the corporation's broader approach to impartiality and appeals.

"We are passionate about defending the BBC's impartiality and we worry with such an emotive and such a political story," he told BBC Breakfast.

John Ryley, head of Sky News, said "absolute impartiality" was fundamental to his channel's approach.

He said: "That is why, after very careful consideration, we have concluded that broadcasting an appeal for Gaza at this time is incompatible with our role in providing balanced and objective reporting of this continuing situation to our audiences in the UK and around the world."

The DEC insists it is acting solely to relieve humanitarian need and is non-political in its aims.

It says there is an urgent need for funds to help ease the desperate plight of people affected by the conflict in the densely-populated coastal enclave, which killed more than 1,300 Palestinians.

Israel launched military action against Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, on December 27 and only halted the attacks 22 days later.

There were fresh protests over the situation in Gaza today.

Peace campaigner Maria Gallastegui, 50, vowed to continue her 16-day hunger strike indefinitely as she delivered a petition to Downing Street this morning.

She said she was disappointed at the BBC and Sky News's refusal to broadcast the DEC's emergency appeal.

"Impartiality is a nice cop-out. How can we be impartial when people are suffering and dying? It's a luxury we can't afford," she said.

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