The Latest: Britain calls on Israel to act proportionately

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LONDON — The British government says Israel must ensure that its military activities against Hamas are “proportionate,” and it is deeply concerned by the destruction of media offices and other civilian targets in Gaza.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said Britain is “in contact with our U.S and U.N. counterparts and urgently seeking more information from the Israeli government” on Saturday’s attack, which destroyed a high-rise building housing the offices of The Associated Press and other media organizations.

“We are deeply concerned by U.N. reports that 23 schools and 500 homes, as well as medical facilities and media offices, have been destroyed or damaged in Gaza,” Blain said. He added that “Israel must make every effort to avoid civilian casualties and military activity must be proportionate.”

Blain also said the U.K. was concerned about Hamas using civilian areas as cover. Israel says the media building was also being used by Hamas, though it has not offered evidence.

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CAIRO — Egypt’s chief diplomat has warned against expanding the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, urging all parties to strike a cease-fire.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said in televised comments that Egypt is working with international partners to reach a truce and embark on political negations aiming at achieving a “permanent, comprehensive and just” solution to the Palestinian cause.

He said Egypt hopes the U.S. administration will engage in such an effort to relaunch the political process in order to avert war and destruction in the region.

He called for Israel’s government to reduce tensions in Jerusalem and stop efforts by extremist settlers to change the nature of the city.

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BERLIN — German officials have condemned the ongoing rocket fire by Hamas on Israel and demanded that the militant group immediately end those attacks.

“This is terror, which is intended to kill people indiscriminately,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reportes in Berlin. “The German government stands by Israel and its right to protect its population and defend itself.”

Seibert added that it was “tragic that so many human lives need to be lamented on both sides” but accused Hamas of “holding the Palestinian population in Gaza hostage” by launching its rockets from densely populated civilian areas.

Asked about the destruction of a Gaza building housing several media outlets, including AP, by Israel over the weekend, Seibert said it was important that journalists should be able to report from war zones, but again cited Israel’s right to self-defense. Israel has claimed the building was also used by Hamas, though it has not offered evidence.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The ambassador of the Czech Republic to Kuwait is apologizing over an image posted online of him draped in the Israeli flag, amid anger in the small, oil-rich nation over the death of Palestinians.

Martin Dvorak wrote an open letter posted on the embassy’s Twitter account on Monday after Kuwaitis posted angry messages to his Instagram account.

Dvorak wrote that his post inspired “understandable outrage and indignation among many people with regards to the current, deeply dramatic situation in the Gaza Strip.”

He added: “It was absolutely not my intention to express any manner of disrespect towards the innocent Palestinian victims and casualties whose loss we are currently witnessing.”

The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry summoned Dvorak on Monday over the post to express “its categorical rejection and strong disapproval.”

While some Gulf Arab nations now recognize Israel, Kuwait has not done so in a decades-long support of the Palestinians’ efforts to have an independent state.

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MOSCOW — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia is “extremely concerned” about Israel’s destruction of a building in Gaza City that housed the AP’s longtime Gaza bureau and offices of other media organizations.

“We are extremely concerned about the growing number of human casualties,” Peskov added during a conference call with reporters.

Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t had any contacts with either side of the conflict in recent days, but such contacts “can be organized, if necessary.”

The Kremlin spokesman added that “very energetic efforts are now being made both through the Quartet (of Middle East mediators, which comprises the U.N., the U.S., the European Union and Russia), and various countries are now in constant contact through bilateral channels with both the Israelis and the Palestinians in order to stop the exchange of strikes.”

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ROME — The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis met with the Iranian foreign minister and spoke by telephone with the Turkish president amid the spiral of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Vatican said Francis spoke by phone around 9 a.m. Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Later, he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was in Rome on a previously announced visit. The Vatican provided no comment on the content of the talks.

On Sunday, Francis appealed for calm and international help to open a path of dialogue. Speaking during his Sunday blessing, Francis said the deaths of children in the latest surge of violence was a “sign that they don’t want to build the future but want to destroy it.”

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked Pope Francis to support sanctions against Israel, saying Palestinians will continue to be “massacred” as long as the international community does not punish Israel.

During a telephone telephone call Monday with the pope, Erdogan also said that “continued messages and reactions” from Francis in support of Palestinians would be of great importance for the “mobilization of the Christian world and of the international community,” according to a statement from the Turkish presidential communications directorate.

During their conversation, Erdogan also renewed a call for the international community to take concrete steps to show Israel the “dissuasive reaction and lesson it deserves,” according to the statement. The Turkish leader has been engaged in a telephone diplomacy bid to end Israel’s use of force.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza’s mayor says Israeli airstrikes Monday on the Gaza Strip have caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure, while the Israeli military says they destroyed 15 kilometers (nine miles) of militant tunnels and the homes of nine alleged Hamas commanders.

“If the aggression continues we expect conditions to become worse,” mayor Yahya Sarraj told Al-Jazeera TV.

The U.N. has warned that the territory’s sole power station is at risk of running out of fuel, and Sarraj said Gaza was also low on spare parts. Gaza already experiences daily power outages for between eight and 12 hours and tap water is undrinkable. Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for the the territory’s electricity distribution company, said it has fuel to supply Gaza with electricity for two or three days. Airstrikes have damaged supply lines and the company’s staff cannot reach areas that were hit because of continued Israeli shelling, he added.

The war broke out last Monday, when the Hamas militant group fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the holy city between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police. The protests were focused on the heavy-handed policing of a flashpoint sacred site during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

Since then, the Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says are targeting Hamas’ militant infrastructure. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 3,100 rockets into Israel.

At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes and 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks from Gaza.

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JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip have destroyed 15 kilometers (nine miles) of militant tunnels and the homes of nine alleged Hamas commanders.

Residents of Gaza awakened early Monday by the overnight barrage described it as the heaviest since the war began a week ago, and even more powerful than a wave of airstrikes in Gaza City the day before that left 42 dead and flattened three buildings.

There was no immediate word Monday on the casualties from the latest strikes. A three-story building in Gaza City was heavily damaged, but residents said the military warned them 10 minutes before the strike and everyone cleared out. They said many of the airstrikes hit nearby farmland.

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