Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett urged "extreme caution" on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon conflict last night as Ministers denied a Government rift over the crisis.
She said that Israel had to recognise the dangers of targeting Hezbollah in civilian areas after Foreign Minister Kim Howells criticised the bombardment of Lebanon.
During a visit to Beirut, Mr Howells said on Saturday that Israel's attacks were not "surgical strikes" against militants but were hurting ordinary people.
Mr Howells, the first British Minister to visit the region since the recent outbreak of violence, was meeting senior ministers in Israel last night.
Mrs Beckett said earlier that she had had to listen to what Mr Howells was report-ing from the scene.
"What Kim is saying is that targeting Hezbollah is one thing and one understands why it is being done, but it is not working in the way that Israel had hoped and claimed that it was," she said.
"And so that's why we have to continue to ... urge recognition of that danger on Israel."
Asked whether Israel had heeded calls for restraint, Mrs Beckett said she would not disclose private conversations.
"We would like to see an end to the violence," she added. "We think there should be extreme caution exercised on both sides. That remains what we are saying in private."
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott explicitly denied a rift over the Government's approach to the crisis.
He said: "There isn't a division between the Foreign Office and the Government. I attended a Cabinet discussion only on Thursday where Margaret was there and the Cabinet had a serious discussion about this matter and frankly there isn't a division at all."
Mr Prescott added that the conflict could only be resolved through diplomacy and backed the Prime Minister to make headway.
Mr Blair has so far refused to back the call for an immediate ceasefire made by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, despite pressure from figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The PM has publicly supported Israel, insisting only that its response must be proportionate.
Mr Howells added yesterday that Israel had to do more than just win a military battle.
"What's going on over there won't be won simply by a military exercise, it's got to be a political victory as well.
"And that means that the forces of sanity have got to win out," he said.
Asked whether Mr Blair agreed with his stance, he added: "I've tried to express something which is not just a political gesture.
"What I've tried to argue as a good friend of this country and the Lebanese is that you have to look also at the way the world sees this retaliation, that's the most important thing.
"And I know that the British Prime Minister feels the same way. He is acutely aware that this is not just a military campaign, this needs political attention and it needs the involvement of the international community to solve it."
The Tories said that some Israeli actions against Lebanon had been "disproportionate".
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said he welcomed Mr Howells' comments on Saturday.
"There's been a clear impression, in the House of Commons certainly, that the Foreign Office view as reflected by Kim Howells and the Number 10 view were quite different. And poor Margaret Beckett has found herself trying to straddle these and not always found it particularly easy to do so." n Save the Children and the British Red Cross have both launched appeals to assist their work in the Middle East.
To contribute to the Save the Children appeal, people should go to th website www.savethechildren.org.uk or phone 0800 8148148.
Donations to the Red Cross Middle East Crisis Appeal can be made on 0845 054 7200 or at www.redcross.org.uk/crisisap-peal.