Arab and Islamic leaders condemn deadly raids on Gaza

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Cairo - Arab and Islamic leaders Saturday widely condemned the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, in which at least 155 Palestinians were killed.

Egypt condemned the wave of the Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip and announced it would open would its border crossing with Gaza at Rafah.

"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.

"Egypt will continue its contacts to prepare an atmosphere conducive to restoring the period of calm and achieving reconciliation between the Palestinian groups," it added.

The statement also said Egypt had tried to warn Israel of the grave consequences of such escalation and had called on Palestinian groups to renew a truce which expired just over a week ago.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak also gave instructions for the Rafah terminal to be opened for wounded Palestinians to be evacuated and for the Egyptian hospitals to offer them the necessary treatment, the Middle East News Agency reported.

Egypt mediated a six-month truce between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement earlier this year.

The truce expired on December 19 and Hamas said it would not commit to renewing the cease-fire.

Since then Egypt has been trying to broker its renewal. Amr Mussa, secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab League, called for an emergency meeting on Sunday of foreign ministers of Arab countries "to discuss the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip."

He also asked Libya, as a current member of the United National Security Council, to organise an emergency meeting of the council on the subject of the Israeli raids, MENA reported.

Meanwhile, Egypt has reinforced security on its frontier with Gaza by deploying 500 anti-riot police along the border in the wake of the raids, MENA quoted an Egyptian security source as saying.

Meanwhile, Jordan urged an "immediate" halt to the attack.

"Jordan strongly condemns the aggression on Gaza [and] urges Israel to stop immediately its military operations and the policy of collective punishment being carried out against Palestinian civilians," the Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communication Nasser Judeh said in a statement.

Judeh added that Jordanian King Abdullah II would be "involved in moves with the world's influential powers to ensure a cessation of the military operations".

The Jordanian Foreign Minister Salab Bashir summoned the ambassadors to Amman of the five UN Security Council members to relay Amman's protest.

The Jordanian official reaction was supported by hundreds of Jordanian trade unionists and opposition party members who also staged a demonstration to protest the Israeli attack.

Participants accused Egypt and other Arab countries of "collusion with the Israeli aggression", alluding to the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's visit to Cairo on Thursday and her meeting with President Mubarak.

Demonstrators also blasted the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, dubbed him as "spy" and urged the Palestinian people to topple him.

Tehran also condemned the Israeli raids calling them savage, inhuman and contrary to all human rights norms.

"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 organizations," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said in a statement carried by ISNA news agency.

While calling on an urgent action by the United Nations Security Council and Organization of the Islamic Conference to stop the raids, the spokesman reiterated Iran's firm support for the Palestinian nation.

The head of parliament's foreign policy commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said within the same context that "the new crimes by the Zionists (Israel) reflect their savage nature and that of those countries claiming to be civilized and defend human rights."

Boroujerdi told ISNA that support by the United States and other Western powers has de facto encouraged Israel to commit crimes such as the latest raids in Gaza Strip.

Also Iranian Nobel peace laureate and lawyer Shirin Ebadi condemned the raids and told Fars news agency "what is happening today in Gaza hurts the heart of every human being and is contrary to all human rights' norms."

In the Turkish capital Ankara, 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. (dpa)


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