New Zealand PM Rejects Calls to Expel Israeli Ambassador as Gaza Violence Continues

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An Israeli Apache helicopter fires flares near the border with the northern Gaza Strip
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires flares above Israel near the border with the northern Gaza Strip July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Nir Elias

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key rejected claims that the government has become "too soft" on Israel amid calls for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Violence continues to erupt in Gaza as another school run by the United Nations has been hit.

According to reports, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has "strongly condemned" the deaths of at least 10 Palestinian civilians after the collapse of a school in Rafah that had sheltered thousands of people.

Ki-moon said the attack is a "gross violation of international humanitarian law" which requires protection by both parties in the conflict and the UN. The recent attack on another school followed the bombings of other UN-run schools the previous week. The UN had contacted Israeli forces and pinpointed the location of schools in the hopes of sparing them from bomb attacks.

The New Zealand government has called on Israeli and Palestinian forces to end the conflict and loss of lives. The Green party said the government's efforts was not enough and suggested the expulsion of Israeli Ambassador Yosef Livne.

However, Mr Key rejected the calls and said sending the ambassador home will only leave the government with no one to "register concerns with." The prime minister said even the Labour party is not in favour of sending the Israeli ambassador home.

Reports said more than 1800 people have died in the Gaza conflict and majority of them were Palestinians including 400 children. In July, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died in Israel.

Mr Key said he was "horrified" by the ongoing violence but did not condemn Israel. He said he cannot "point fingers" and only called for a dialogue between parties.

However, Greens global affairs spokesperson Kennedy Graham believes sending the Israeli ambassador home would indicate a "clear diplomatic signal." He cited Israel's refusal to agree to a ceasefire from world leaders should have its consequences.

Graham insisted New Zealand should not stand by and take no action. He encouraged the government to "cut off ties" and remove Israeli investments in New Zealand's Super Fund until Israel acts according to international standards.    

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