The UK government has called for an independent investigation into this week's violence in Gaza, which saw at least 60 Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and hundreds more injured.
"The UK has already said it supports an investigation into the circumstances of what has been happening," said Middle East minister Alistair Burt, speaking in the House of Commons after an urgent question was tabled by Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry on Tuesday.
"The UK has been clear in urgently calling for the facts of what happened to be established, including why such a volume of live fire was used," he said. "There are different forms of inquiry that are possible through the United Nations, but we have to find the right formula."
In a prepared statement, Burt said: "It is deplorable that extremist elements may have been seeking to exploit these protests for their own violent purposes. We will not waver from our support for Israel’s right to defend its borders. But the large volume of live fire is extremely concerning. We continue to implore Israel to show greater restraint."
Thornberry told the Commons: "These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate overreaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protesters and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.
"The UK should lead calls for the UN Security Council to order such an investigation today."
Various nations, including Germany, have called for an independent inquiry into the violence.
On Monday, the United States – which controversially opened a new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, as the violence escalated in Gaza – blocked the adaptation of a UN Security Council motion, proposed by Kuwait, that called for an investigation of Israel’s use of force against Palestinians.
According to reports, the statement also urged all nations not to establish diplomatic missions in the disputed capital Jerusalem.
Burt told MPs that the Security Council was due to meet tonight to discuss the situation in Gaza. He reiterated that the UK government "does not agree with the decision" to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and said the British government had no plans to do anything similar.
However, the UK government was careful not to apportion blame for the violence.
In parliament on Tuesday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson did not stay in the chamber to respond to an urgent question from Thornberry, but previously told MPs that he was "deeply saddened by the loss of life in Gaza".
Johnson said he "urge[d] Israel to show restraint in use of live fire", reiterating the UK's commitment to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital.
The government was criticised by Conservative backbencher and former armed forces minister Nicholas Soames, who called for "a less limp response" from the Foreign Office.
While he criticised the actions of Hamas in exploiting the peaceful protests, he said the Israeli government had shown "a wholly unacceptable and excessive use of force and a totally disproportionate response".
Hannah Al-Othman is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hannah Al-Othman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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