5 Jan 2009

Government 'disappointed' at Gaza invasion

3:12 pm on 5 January 2009

New Zealand's Government says it is "deeply disappointed and distressed" at Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip - but is refusing to take sides on the issue.

Israeli ground forces crossed into the Hamas-ruled territory on Sunday, with the intention of stopping the Palestinian militants from carrying out new rocket attacks on Israel.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully said both sides need to step back from the conflict and work towards a ceasefire.

He said New Zealand is deeply disappointed that having called for a de-escalation of the conflict in Gaza, along with most of the international community, the conflict has escalated.

Mr McCully said there is a certainty that more people will be killed and injured as a consequence, and that is deeply disappointing and distressing.

He said it is obvious the conflict cannot end without the help of a strong external force, and he hopes the United Nations Security Council can provide that.

However, the UN Security Council announced it has failed to reach any agreement on the Gaza conflict.

NZ Palestinians seek aid

Palestinians living in New Zealand hope the Government will offer extra aid to people living in Gaza, where hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes.

The Australian government on Thursday pledged an extra $A5 million of aid. Australia's acting prime minister, Julia Gillard, said the assistance would help ensure Palestinians have adequate access to much-needed basic goods, such as food and medical supplies.

New Zealand Palestine Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Tuma Hazou said the Government should follow Australia's stance.

The Government has already earmarked $1.5 million in aid this financial year and has not ruled out offering more.