Paddy Ashdown on Israeli killing of Palestinian protesters: 'A potential war crime'

Paddy Ashdown on killing of Palestinian protesters: 'A potential war crime'

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Downing Street has restated Britain's disagreement with Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Protests took place yesterday before the opening ceremony, which was attended by Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, who both serve as White House advisers.

Mr Trump's decision broke with a decades-old international position that diplomatic representation should remain in Tel Aviv until the final status of Jerusalem is settled as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

At least 58 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured as Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators heading for the Gaza border in a protest march.

The US has said the date of inauguration was chosen to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment, but it also falls at the time of annual Palestinian "nakba" commemorations to mark the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in 1948.

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“It was reckless and inflammatory, and will further damage chances of peace,” Lord Paddy Ashdown said of the US’s decision to hold the embassy opening on that day.

Asked by Julia Hartley-Brewer on the breakfast show who was to blame for the escalating tensions, he said: “Both sides. They always are in circumstances like this.

“I’ve no doubt Hamas was encouraging it and I’ve no doubt Israel - very unwisely in my view - went out of its way to provide them with an extra provocation by putting such a celebration on the day of the opening of their American embassy on a day which is extremely sensitive to both sides.

He added: “You are entitled to use lethal force only if you are in imminent danger of loss of life.

"It seems to me there is strong evidence... excessive force has been used, and if that’s true a potential war crime has been committed.”

Lord Ashdown and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry called for an independent UN enquiry.

Mrs May's official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "The Prime Minister said in December, when the announcement was first made, that we disagreed with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement.

"The British embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.

"The UK remains firmly committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital."