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UK Labour leaders, MPs slam Netanyahu's planned visit over Gaza war crimes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) gestures during a cabinet meeting on August 5, 2015. His upcoming visit to the UK is being widely condemned across Britain. (AFP photo)

A group of British union leaders, lawmakers and other dignitaries has condemned the upcoming visit to the UK by the Israeli prime minister, insisting he “must bear responsibility for war crimes” his regime committed in the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014.

“Our prime minister should not be welcoming the man who presides over Israel’s occupation and its siege on Gaza,” the group stated in a joint letter published Monday in British daily The Guardian, further underlining that the Israeli regime created “hell” in the densely populated Palestinian enclave and that Palestinians fleeing the devastation were among the refugees that drowned in the Mediterranean this year.

The letter reiterated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is due in London on Thursday, “must bear responsibility for war crimes identified by the UN human rights council in its investigation into Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.”

File photo of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip during its massive onslaught on the besieged Palestinian enclave in the summer of 2014

According to the UN inquiry into the massive Israeli onslaught on Gaza in July and August 2014, the regime’s forces conducted 6,000 airstrikes and fired 50,000 tanks and artillery shells, killing 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of them children.  

“While Cameron continues to impose limits on the number of refugees who can take shelter in the UK, he is willing to welcome Netanyahu to our shores… We call on him to instead impose immediate sanctions and an arms embargo on Israel until it complies with international law and ends the blockade and the occupation,” the letter further stated.

It was signed, the daily said, by the leaders of Unite, Maritime and Transport Workers, Aslef, and Transport Salaried Staffs' Association unions, Labour Party MPs Jo Stevens and Cat Smith, Scottish National Party legislator Tommy Sheppard, British film director Ken Loach, poet Benjamin Zephaniah as well as comedian Alexei Sayle.

The development comes as over 105,000 Britons have so far signed an online petition demanding the arrest of the Israeli premier on war crime charges when he lands in the UK, passing the 100,000-signature threshold required for the parliament to consider a debate on the issue.

A screen capture of the online petition in the UK calling for Netanyahu's arrest for war crimes

This is while the international criminal court is also conducting a preliminary probe into the bloody war on Gaza in spite of stiff Israeli opposition, the report adds.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu's visit is also expected to spark massive protest rallies and tight security measures, according to the British daily.

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