William Hague: Middle East violence is Hamas' fault

By Ian Dunt

William Hague has pinned the blame for the current flare-up in the Middle East on Hamas, following a spate of killings on both sides of the border.

Three people have died in southern Israel after a four-storey building in the town of Kiryat Malachi was hit by a rocket from Gaza.

It follows a strike which killed eleven Palestinians yesterday, including Hamas' military chief but also several children.

"Hamas bears principal responsibility for the current crisis," the foreign secretary said.

"I utterly condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups.

"Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza should cease attacks against Israel immediately. I call on those in the region with influence over Hamas to use that influence to bring about an end to the attacks."

Israel's strike has resulted in over 130 rockets being fired from Gaza. The spasm of violence follows a period of gradually increasing cross-border tension. Hundreds of rockets have been fired, while Israel has carried out several air strikes.

Hague, who has been a vocal opponent of Israeli settlements, did not limit his criticism to Hamas.

"I also strongly urge Israel to do their utmost to reduce tension, avoid civilian casualties and increase the prospects for both sides to live in peace," he said.

"It is imperative to avoid the risk of a spiral of violence. The escalation of the conflict would be in no one's interest, particularly at a time of instability in the region.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has cut short a trip to Sweden to deal with the escalating crisis.