International community piles pressure on Israel
AFP - 1 hour 18 minutes ago
UNITED NATIONS, (AFP) - - The international community piled pressure on Israel to halt its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Monday, as raids on the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas entered their third day.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added his voice to the 15-member Security Council's call for an immediate end to hostilities and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the poverty-stricken territory.
"He deplores that violence is continuing today, and he strongly urges once again an immediate stop to all acts of violence," which has already left more than 300 people dead, his spokeswoman Michele Montas said in a statement.
The Security Council earlier issued a non-binding statement calling for "an immediate halt to all violence" in the Gaza Strip and urged the parties "to stop immediately all military activities."
As Israeli air strikes continued and with tanks massed on the border for a possible land offensive, China called for a halt to the military operation.
"The Chinese side is shocked and seriously concerned over the current military operations in Gaza that have caused a large number of deaths and injuries," Vice Premier Li Keqiang said in a statement.
He called on the Israelis and Hamas to work towards peace, saying both sides "need to resolve differences through dialogue."
Demonstrators in cities around the world marched Sunday in protest against the air strikes, which have wounded more than 600 people.
The largest single protest of about 8,000 people took place in Egypt in the southern city of Assiut, while rallies in the capital Cairo and the port city of Alexandria drew around 4,000 each, a security official said.
Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah urged Egyptians to take to the streets in their "millions" to force their government to open the country's border with Gaza and help save Palestinians from the bombardments.
In Turkey, thousands of people joined demonstrations in about a dozen cities, while in Syria, protesters burned Israeli and American flags as thousands demonstrated in central Damascus.
There were similar scenes in the Jordanian capital Amman, where hundreds of people led by Islamist lawmakers gathered to demand the closure of the Israeli embassy.
With Egypt, Jordan is one of only two Arab governments to have signed peace treaties with Israel.
In Europe, British police made 10 arrests as a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London turned violent. Danish police arrested a man on the fringes of a march in Copenhagen after he threw a petrol bomb at officers.
Protest rallies were also held in Paris and Madrid.
Earlier Sunday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for an "urgent ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence."
A call to "urgently halt" the military action also came from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who spoke to his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni.
Japan, a leading donor to the Middle East peace process, expressed its deep concern, urging both sides to immediately stop the use of force to avoid a further escalation, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said in a statement.
The top diplomats in Italy and Spain, Franco Frattini and Miguel Angel Moratinos, also spoke by telephone with Livni, who said Israel would try "to limit the suffering of the people of Gaza," the Italian foreign ministry said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the European Union presidency, told Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas by telephone of his grave concerns about the escalating violence.
Pope Benedict XVI urged everyone involved in the "tragic situation in the Middle East" to strive for humanity and wisdom.
Canada also appealed for a halt to violence, while mostly Muslim Malaysia accused Israel of using "disproportionate" force and Pakistan condemned the air attacks as "counterproductive."
A top aide to Barack Obama said the US president-elect was committed to achieving peace in the Middle East.
Recognising the special relationship between the United States and Israel, Obama would work closely with the Israelis, David Axelrod said in an interview on CBS television.
"But he will do so in a way that will promote the cause of peace, and work closely with the Israelis and the Palestinians on that -- toward that objective," said Axelrod.
By contrast, the outgoing Bush administration blamed Hamas "thugs" for provoking the offensive by firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.
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Lebanese and Palestinian protestors burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli against Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip. The international community piled pressure on Israel to halt its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Monday, as raids on the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas entered their third day.
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