UK minister: Hamas Purim attacks 'unacceptable'

Alistair Burt

Alistair Burt

Britain’s Foreign Office minister for the Middle East has condemned Hamas for sending more than 50 mortars into Israel in just a few hours, and called on the terrorist organisation to immediately halt its behaviour.

Alistair Burt said that the barrage from the Gaza Strip – the heaviest in two years – by a group allied to Hamas was “unacceptable”.

Israelis were celebrating Purim in towns near to the Gaza border when the mortars were fired on Sunday morning. Two rockets were also fired into southern Israel later in the day, causing injury and damage.

Mr Burt condemned the “indiscriminate targeting of Israeli citizens” and said Hamas’ actions signalled “a further, worrying escalation in the situation at a time when international efforts are focused on getting Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table”.

He added: “Hamas must halt these strikes immediately, and rein in other militant factions in Gaza.”

Mr Burt drew attention to other attacks by Hamas forces in the last week, including those directed at local and foreign media and the assault of students and peace protesters in Gaza.

He warned: “Hamas should not think that while the attention of the world is elsewhere we will turn a blind eye to their actions.”

The barrage prompted Israel’s acting UN ambassador to complain to the UN Security Council. Meron Reuben wrote: "Such attacks constitute a clear violation of international law and must be addressed with the utmost seriousness.”

    Last updated: 4:21pm, March 21 2011