London: A British minister who was the first Muslim to sit in the cabinet resigned yesterday over the government's "morally indefensible" policy on Gaza.
The decision by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a minister at the Foreign Office and for faith and communities, heaped fresh pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to take a tougher line against Israel over its actions in Gaza.
His coalition government has faced sustained criticism in recent days, led by the main opposition Labour Party, that it has not spoken out strongly enough over a conflict that has killed 1,867 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side.
She said there was "great unease" in the Foreign Office, where Philip Hammond took over as Foreign Secretary from William Hague last month, about how recent policy decisions had been made.
Labour leader Ed Miliband last week accused Cameron of "inexplicable" silence over the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, now in a three-day
"The government needs to send a much clearer message to Israel that its actions in Gaza are unacceptable and unjustifiable," Miliband said.
"What I want to hear from David Cameron is that he believes that Israel's actions in Gaza are wrong and unjustified, and we haven't heard that from him."
On Monday, Cameron said the United Nations was "right" to condemn an air strike near a school in Rafah on Sunday which killed 10 people but would not say whether he thought it was a "criminal" act.
Downing Street said Cameron regretted Sayeeda's decision, and added: "Our policy has always been consistently clear — the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we've urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire."
Finance minister George Osborne called her resignation "disappointing and frankly
"The British government is working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza and we do now have a tentative ceasefire which we all hope will hold," he added.
Sayeeda's resignation drew praise on Twitter from some Labour MPs. "Very courageous of my brave friend @SayeedaWarsi to resign over this Government's inexplicable silence and total weakness on the #Gaza crisis," wrote Sadiq Khan, Labour's lead spokesman on justice.