Arabs condemn Israeli attack of Gaza


NICOSIA, AFP

Arab countries fiercely condemned Israel’s deadly bombardment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with Egypt leading the censure by recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Monday ordered Ambassador Mohammed Bassiouni back home for immediate consultations because of Israel’s “excessive use of force” against the Palestinians.

One Palestinian was reported killed and 120 injured in the air and sea raids, which Israel carried out in retaliation for a bombing that killed two adults and injured several children aboard a Jewish settler school bus earlier Monday.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II Tuesday strongly condemned “Israeli aggressions” in the Gaza Strip and asked for international protection for the Palestinians, a Jordanian official said. Speaking with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, Abdullah called for “greater international efforts to halt aggressive Israeli practices which threaten to destroy hopes of peace in the region” and demanded an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade on Palestinian cities.”

Jordan decided in October to put off indefinitely sending its new ambassador to Israel, Abdel Ilkah al-Kurdi, who was named by the Jordanian government in August, as a gesture of protest at violent Israeli repression in the Palestinian Territories. The theme of international protection for the Palestinians was taken up by Arab League chief Esmat Abdel Meguid urged the United Nations on Tuesday to take “immediate steps.”

Abdel Meguid slammed Israel’s “brutal aggression” Monday night, and “appealed to the U.N. Security Council to take swift and immediate practical steps to send international forces to the occupied Palestinian territories to provide the necessary protection to the Palestinian people from the brutal attacks by Israeli troops,” a League statement said.

Reaction was scathing from Syria, where an official government daily said Tuesday that the Israelis were using “Nazi methods” in their treatment of the Palestinians.

“General Ehud Barak (Israeli prime minister) and all the other Israeli generals have recourse to Nazi methods, as they are in the habit of destroying a village and killing hundreds of its residents if one of their soldiers is killed there or taken hostage,” said the government Tishrin paper, which accuses the Jewish state of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

And Israel’s other neighbor, Lebanon, condemned the Israeli strikes in Gaza, referring to the damage caused to the peace process.

Speaking Tuesday at a news conference in Rabat during a brief visit to Morocco, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri said: “We remain firmly attached to peace that we are trying to promote with all the parties concerned,” saying that required “Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied Arab land.”

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, slammed international silence over the ongoing clashes between Palestinians and Israel, urging that an international protection force be dispatched to the Palestinian territories.

“The savagery of Israel, which uses all means of repression and extermination against innocent Palestinian civilians, shows up the evil plans it has for eliminating the Palestinian people and driving them out their lands,” said Okaz paper, which, like the rest of Saudi press, represents the official point of view.

“International silence in the face of Israeli massacres cannot be continued indefinitely and nothing justifies the international community ducking its responsibilities.”