Arab leaders meet on Gaza as Israel presses offensive

Arab leaders met in Qatar and foreign ministers in Kuwait on Friday to deal with the Israeli offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 1,100 people and wounded more than 5,000 others in 21 days, reported Xinhua .

In Doha, the Qatari capital, about 12 to 13 Arab leaders began an emergency summit as scheduled despite the fact that it did not achieve the quorum of two thirds of the 22-member Arab League to hold such a summit with regional heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia refusing to attend.

Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal vowed that the Islamist movement would not accept Israel's conditions for a ceasefire.

"I assure you: despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel's conditions for a ceasefire," he said.

Meshaal also called on Arab leaders to cut all ties with the Jewish state.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also urged Arab nations to cut ties with Israel.

The Arab-Israel peace initiative is "dead," Assad told the meeting, calling for the Arabs to cease "all direct and indirect ties" with the Jewish country.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Muslim nations "need to cut relations with Israel and America."

In Kuwait City, Arab foreign ministers met to address the Israeli offensive, adopting a proposal that called for a halt to the "Israeli aggression" in Gaza.

The proposal called for lifting the Israeli blockade in the Palestinian territory and opening of all border crossings with Gaza.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud bin al-Faisal urged the concerned parties to move effectively to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip "leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces."

Prince al-Faisal said the current stage needed to carry out the first of several steps to support Egyptian efforts to provide mechanisms for the rapid implementation of the resolution.

In the Egyptian capital Cairo, whirlwind diplomacy is on.

Amos Gilad, head of the Diplomatic-Security Bureau of the Israeli Defense Ministry, left Cairo after a several-hour visit Friday without announcing any progress in talks with Egyptian mediators on a ceasefire deal with Hamas. It was his second visit to Egypt in two days.

Israeli diplomatic-security cabinet was scheduled to meet Friday to vote on the Egyptian offer, but it has decided to put off the debate until Gilad returns from Cairo with the latest information.

The Israeli air and ground offensive on Gaza continued Friday, with at least eight Palestinians killed in fresh attacks. That brought the death toll to more than 1,140 since the assault on Gaza began on Dec. 27, and some 5150 others were wounded, local Palestinian medical sources and witnesses said.

Meanwhile, Israeli tanks are advancing toward the south of Netzarim, approaching the newly-built city of Alzahra, witnesses said.

Palestinian National Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Friday in the West Bank city of Ramallah that at this moment the main goal is to end bloodshed and destruction in Gaza.

"We should exert efforts on achieving the ceasefire" as soon as possible, otherwise, more casualties and destruction are unavoidable, Abbas said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a visit to Ramallah Friday that casualties and the humanitarian situation in Gaza are "unbearable" and called on for an immediate halt to the fighting.

The UN chief said there was "no time to lose" for an immediate halt to the military operations in Gaza.

Ban arrived in Turkey later in the day and is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the ongoing Israeli offensive against Gaza, a UN information official told Xinhua.

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