A British MP has stood by controversial comments in which he said that if he lived in Gaza he would join terrorists and fire rockets at Israeli civilians.
Liberal Democrat MP David Ward posted the message on Twitter Tuesday, asking rhetorically: "The big question is - if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? - probably yes."
The tweet drew angry condemnation from Jewish groups and the Liberal Democrat party itself, with a spokesman quick to emphasize that the comments do not represent the party, which is currently the junior partner in the governing coalition.
"We utterly condemn David Ward’s comments, they are not representative of the Liberal Democrats," he said. "The party takes this matter very seriously and will treat it as a disciplinary issue."
But speaking to BBC Radio 5 the MP, who represents the Bradford East constituency, refused to voice any regret for his comments.
"The question is why would they want to fire missiles when they know that the missiles will result in further Palestinian deaths, to a disproportionate level? Why are they doing it?" he asked, referring to Gazan terrorist groups who have been targeting Israeli civilians for the past decade while using Palestinian civilians as human shields. "They are doing it because they are absolutely desperate and politicians in the West are failing them."
"The people in Gaza cannot escape, they are hemmed in by land, sea and air. I understand the plight of the people firing the rockets."
Gavin Stollar, who heads Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel, called on the party to suspect Ward's membership in response to the inflammatory comments.
"Not only is this latest diatribe in poor taste but it shows what an ignorant political opportunist David Ward is. He is neither a Liberal nor a Democrat and as such should not be allowed to carry a membership card espousing these philosophies," he was quoted as saying by the Jewish Chronicle.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Conservative party which leads the coalition government called on Ward to withdraw his comments.
"No MP should tweet what's essentially incitement to violence. Completely irresponsible," Grant Shapps said.
This is not the first time Ward has stirred controversy by making extreme anti-Israel comments.
In July of last year he posted a tweet claiming "the Zionists are losing", branding Israel an "apartheid" state and gleefully predicting the Jewish state's demise.
The previous January he drew widespread condemnations after accusing "the Jews" of "inflicting atrocities on Palestinians" and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany - on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day.