Israeli attack on Gaza sparks protest, calls for restraintDecember 28th, 2008 - 12:33 am ICT by IANS
Washington, Dec 27 (DPA) Western leaders admonished Israel to end attacks and exercise restraint after it conducted airstrikes in the Gaza Strip Saturday - a move that sparked protests across the Arab world.At least 200 people were killed as Israeli forces staged the airstrikes in response to missile and mortar barrages out of the Gaza Strip. Those attacks had resumed after a ceasefire lapsed Dec 19.
While fury was expressed across the Arab world, leaders elsewhere called on Israel to rein in or cease its military operations.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe issued a call for Israel to avoid civilian deaths. The European Union (EU) criticised Israel for using disproportionate force and called for an immediate end to hostilities.
The EU also called upon Israel to reopen border with the Gaza Strip to fuel and food shipments, which have been disrupted since an economic and military blockade began in 2007.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko called on Israel to end its “combat activities which have already led to great loss and suffering among the peaceful Palestinian population”.
Hamas, the organisation that has de facto political control of the Gaza Strip, also was faced with criticism from several corners, with both the US and Russia calling for it to put an end to the missile attacks on Israel.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for an end to the “unjustifiable provocation” out of the Gaza Strip, a call echoed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Sarkozy further noted that there is no military solution to the problems between Israel and Hamas. Nesterenko took a similar tack, urging both sides to the negotiating table. An international conference on the region is planned to go ahead in Moscow in 2009.
Similar calls for meetings, but with a different focus, came from Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who called for an emergency Arab summit to discuss the crisis.
According to the state news agency, Saleh said the summit would discuss the “barbaric aggression, massacres and genocide war committed by the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza.”
The Israeli actions were roundly condemned in the Arab world.
“Egypt condemns the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip and blames Israel, as an occupying force, for the victims and the wounded,” an Egyptian presidential statement read. President Hosny Mubarak also made provisions for Egyptian hospitals to offer medical treatment to Gaza Strip residents caught in the bombardment.
Egypt had brokered the previous ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and had been seeking its renewal.
In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Israeli airstrikes were “primarily a strike against peace.”
Erdogan said that he had cancelled a scheduled telephone conversation with Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on account of the airstrikes.
In Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said, in a statement carried by the ISNA news agency: “This savage and inhuman act by the Zionist regime (Israel) just adds another chapter to its dark criminal and terrorist record and is the result of the painful silence by relevant international organisations.”
Hundreds of Jordanian trade unionists and opposition party members protested the Israeli airstrike. In Lebanon, supporters gathered to show support for Hamas.
“The people of Gaza are not alone … the coming days will show you this,” said Hezbollah politburo member Sheikh Hashem Saffieddine.
Additionally, more than 5,000 Palestinian refugees from the Jarmuk refugee camp in the south of the Syrian capital Damascus also protested the attacks. Protesters also vented their rage at Egypt, saying the airstrikes had been planned there.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited Egypt three days before the airstrikes.
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