A CROWD gathered outside the Westgate Hotel last night to hold a “vigil” for the conflict in Gaza.

Organised by the group No NATO Newport, protesters were asked to bring flags, posters and banners as they massed next to the Chartist statues at 5pm.

Pippa Bartolotti, Wales Green Party leader, planned to attend the protest.

She said: “The British government has shamefully shirked any responsibility over the matter of Palestine for 77 years.

“It stands silent whilst the sands of Gaza once again turn red with blood.

“It was the British who abandoned Palestine in 1947, leaving it to become the world’s first state invented purely for religious purposes, and born in bloodshed.

“It was the British who consistently turned away from helping the unarmed inhabitants of Palestine, and it is about time the British government took responsibility and led the pathway to peace.

“Several polls indicate that Israeli public opinion is shifting against its government’s continued military response and occupation, and the UN Secretary General is calling for a renewed commitment to a two-state solution.”

She added: “The siege on Gaza is inhumane and counter-productive.

“It must be lifted now”

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say.

Israel has lost 32 soldiers, all since July 17, when it widened its air campaign into a full-scale ground operation it says is aimed at halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

Despite a UN resolution passed against his country, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday repeated his determination to neutralise the rocket and tunnel threats from Hamas.

“We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel... And we shall return it,” Mr Netanyahu said at a joint appearance with visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.