Miliband: Israel airstrikes will fuel radicalism

By staff

Foreign secretary David Miliband has warned Israel’s airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent a “very dangerous and very dark moment” for the region.

More than 300 people have died since the operation targeting Hamas began on Saturday, the majority of the dead from the Islamist group’s security forces, as ground forces swell on the border with the Palestinian territory.

And medical sources and aid agencies have claimed that more than 50 civilians have died and at least 15 children have been killed in the largest Israeli offensive in Gaza for decades.

This morning Mr Miliband said the loss of life and threat to a peace agreement meant “we are now paying a terrible price for the slow and faltering pace of [past] negotiations”.

“There’s no point in me denying my fear that this will fuel radicalism,” he said on the Today programme.

“That is one of the dangers that we face at the moment. I think it’s incumbent on us to argue strongly for the ceasefire.”

On Monday Israeli warplanes struck the university and government buildings in Gaza City as tank and soldier numbers increased on the border with the Gaza Strip.

Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who hopes to be made prime minister in elections to be held next year, told US media that Israel’s goal was “not to reoccupy Gaza Strip”.

But she told NBC’s Meet the Press: “Unfortunately in a war… sometimes also civilians pay the price.”

Since nightfall on Sunday Israel has also targeted the Gaza-Egypt border at Rafah with jet strikes.

Outgoing premier Ehud Olmert has warned that the operation could last well into 2009.

But when asked if Israel had set itself the objective of Hamas’ destruction, Ms Livni told American journalists “not yet”.

Since a six-month truce ended on December 19th Israel claims Hamas has stepped up indiscriminately firing rockets into its territory, which the Jewish state has used as justification for its latest military action.

Mr Miliband said the Arab League’s renewed offer of a peace agreement with Israel now offered the best prospect for the future.

“That is the only way we’re going to achieve the two goals that are so important to everyone – a secure Israel and justice for Palestinians,” he added.