Douglas Alexander in Israel border town

By Nathan Jeffay, December 8, 2011

Britain's Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, received a hard-hitting presentation on life in Israel's Gaza border communities on Tuesday.

"I decided not to be so nice and welcoming to visitors any more," said Zmira Ben-Yosef, headteacher of the Eshkol High School near Sderot, which he visited. "I asked teachers to come along to say what they see happening in the children. We say it's like living near a volcano - you can live a normal life, but then all of a sudden it's up in the air."

Mr Alexander was on a two-day trip to Israel and the West Bank, his first since taking the shadow cabinet's foreign brief, together with Shadow Minister for the Middle East, Ian Lucas. The trip was organised by Labour Friends of Israel.

Mr Alexander said that the visit to the school, where classrooms are reinforced like bomb shelters, was "a powerful reminder of the determination with which peace must be pursued." Ms Ben-Yosef praised him for "showing understanding."

Besides his Gaza borders visit, Mr Alexander also went to Yad Vashem and later met Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Mark Regev, spokesman to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riad Al-Malki.

Last updated: 12:42pm, December 8 2011