More than 107,000 people have signed a British petition calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to arrested for war crimes when he visits London this week for talks with Prime Minister David Cameron.
Britain said visiting heads of state have immunity from legal process and thus cannot be arrested, though the petition indicates the strength of feeling among some about last year’s war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
“Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014,” the petition reads.
Parliament considers all petitions that get more than 100,000 signatures for a debate.
“We recognise that the conflict in Gaza last year took a terrible toll. As the prime minister said, we were all deeply saddened by the violence and the UK has been at the forefront of international reconstruction efforts,” the British government said.
“However the prime minister was clear on the UK’s recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself, within the boundaries of international humanitarian law.”
More than 500 children were among the 2,100 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, who were killed. Seventy-three Israelis, almost all soldiers, were killed.
Two months after the Gaza war, Britain’s parliament voted to recognise Palestine as a state – a non-binding move but a symbolic message of support for Palestinians.
A British court in 2009 issued an arrest warrant for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on war crimes charges but withdrew it on finding she had cancelled a planned trip to Britain.