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Gaza violence extremely concerning, says Theresa May

Theresa May called on Israel to show restraint after the deaths of dozens of Palestinian demonstrators.

Prime Minister Theresa May has described the loss of life in Gaza protests as “tragic and extremely concerning” and urged Israel to show restraint.

Mrs May called for an “independent and transparent investigation” into the incident. While accepting that Israel had the right to defend its borders, she said its use of live ammunition was “deeply troubling”.

Some 59 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,500 injured when Israeli troops opened fire at protesters approaching the border fence on Monday.

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Amid growing international condemnation, Israel insisted it had the right to defend its border against a possible mass breach and accused the militant Hamas movement of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of the protests.

The tragic scenes overshadowed Mrs May’s meeting at 10 Downing Street with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Erdogan has called an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on Friday to discuss the Gaza violence.

Speaking alongside Mrs May as the talks began, Mr Erdogan accused the United States of laying the foundations for the “horrible massacre” by fulfilling President Donald Trump’s promise to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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Theresa May greets Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at 10 Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

In a press conference following their meeting, Mrs May said the situation in Gaza and the West Bank was “troubling”.

“The loss of life we have seen is tragic and extremely concerning,” she said. “Such violence is destructive to peace efforts and we call on all sides to show restraint.

“There is an urgent need to establish the facts of what happened yesterday through an independent and transparent investigation, including why such a volume of live fire was used and what role Hamas played in events.

“Palestinians have the right to protest, but these protests must be peaceful. We are concerned that extremist elements are seeking to hijack legitimate protests to further their own objectives.

“While we do not question the right of Israel to defend its borders, the use of live fire and the resulting loss of life is deeply troubling. We urge Israel to show restraint.

“It is in everyone’s interests for peace and stability to prevail in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

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President Erdogan said the Israeli ambassador to Ankara had been expelled on Tuesday afternoon and its own ambassador to Tel Aviv has been recalled for instructions from the government.

He added: “I think they (Israel) are on the brink of making a decision about the Turkish ambassador in Jerusalem. If that decision gets implemented in an unfortunate fashion we will impose possible sanctions.”

Mr Erdogan said the US decision to move its embassy was not only a violation of United Nations resolutions and international law, but also a step away from the country’s role as a mediator in the Middle East peace process.

“Instead, the US introduced itself as contributing to the conflict,” he said.

Citing widespread opposition in the UN to the embassy move, Mr Erdogan said: “The US claims to be powerful. You are powerful, but you are not right. History will not forgive you. This is the fact that we will observe in the future.

“Israel will not be forgiven. That’s what we are going to witness in the future too. It all boils down to the fact of making a choice – are we going to side with the strong or side with those who are right?”

In the House of Commons, Middle East minister Alistair Burt said that Britain did not back the US embassy move.

“We have made our view clear on the embassy,” he told MPs. “We didn’t agree with it but it’s a reality now, it won’t be our position and we will continue to work for peace in the region.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the Commons: “What makes yesterday’s events all the worse is that they didn’t come as a result of some accidental over-reaction to one day’s protest, but as the result of a culmination of six weeks, an apparently calculated and deliberate policy to kill and maim unarmed protesters, who posed no threat to the forces on the Gaza border.”

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