Cease fire, now

9th January 2009 at 00:00

On Monday, Britain's schools came alive again as children and teachers returned after Christmas. In Gaza City that day, seven more children were killed by Israeli soldiers.

Schools are at the centre of the attack, many housing victims of the violence and destruction brought about by bombing, shelling and ground invasion. Yet others, once standing in the heart of residential communities, are shattered and ruined.

Many children have died, their final step on a road built over decades by Israeli occupation, border-crossing blockade, air strikes and the denial of life's absolute necessities. The resulting deprivation has severely damaged children's education, and disease and malnutrition plague their lives, as reported by Unicef and Save the Children.

Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli villages may be small scale in comparison, but they are also totally unacceptable, and their random brutality is used to attempt to legitimise Israel's disproportionate response.

We know well from our British experience that the violence of militarism and occupation, and inevitable resistance, will not end until the political causes are tackled. The ambition to see a strong, independent and secure state of Palestine, alongside that of Israel, must become a reality.

But the immediate need is for a ceasefire, an embargo on all military equipment and an end to the invasion. We all need to make our voices heard loudly, now. The children of Gaza - and Israel too - demand it of us.

Bill Greenshields, National president, National Union of Teachers.

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