Arab world condemns Israeli attack on Gaza

The Arab world reacted in shock to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday with protests around the region and calls for retaliation against Israel, AP reported.

In Egypt, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit extended his condolences to the Palestinians killed in the attacks and said Egypt, which brokered a six-month long truce between Hamas and Israel that expired a little over a week ago, has been trying to avoid such an escalation.

"Today everybody has to stand by the side of the Palestinian people and stop this blind military action," the foreign minister said.

Egypt also opened its border with the Gaza Strip to receive Palestinian wounded but by late Saturday it did not seem that any wounded had crossed the border. Foreign ministers from around the region are also rushing to Cairo for a Sunday emergency meeting of the Arab League, said the organization's chairman Amr Moussa.

Egypt also came under attack by many in the Arab world for its role, along with Israel, in closing the Gaza Strip after the militant group Hamas came to power in June 2007. The closure is often seen as abetting Israel's siege of the crowded strip of land home to 1.5 million people.

The visit by Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to Cairo on Thursday has also given rise to accusations that Cairo is complicit in the attacks. During the visit, Livni said Israel would no longer tolerate a situation in which Hamas, which pummeled Israel with more than 80 rockets and mortars on Monday, targeted Israel.

Aboul Gheit said the idea that Egypt understands or accepts the Israeli operation against Gaza is "wrong."

He also called on Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the West Bank, to accept Egypt's invitation to attend talks in Cairo designed to reconcile the two warring factions.

A few hundred protesters gathered in Cairo Saturday calling for an end to the strikes.

In Lebanon, about 4,000 protesters marched through a refugee camp in the southern part of the country, condemning the attacks in general, and Egypt in particular.

"Hosni Mubarak, you agent of the Americans, you traitor!" they shouted. They also called on the militant group Hezbollah to attack Israel.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora described the Israeli attacks as a "criminal operation" and "new massacres to be added to its full record of massacres."

The militant group Hezbollah in a statement Saturday called the attacks "a war crime and a genocide," and criticized what it described as the "shameful" Arab silence.

In the Hezbollah stronghold of Beirut's southern suburbs, a few hundred people took to the streets to show solidarity with Gaza's Palestinians.

The Libyan foreign ministry issued a statement calling on Arabs to take solid action in "responding to the Israeli brutality against Gaza," and urged the international community to stop Israel's attacks.

Saudi Arabia, which has put forward a plan calling for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world, in a statement Saturday condemned the Israeli attacks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Saturday in Riyadh, said the Saudi leader promised to call U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders to ask them to push Israel to halt its operations.

Hundreds of protesters in the Jordanian capital of Amman demonstrated, waving Hamas banners and condemning Israel's strikes. There were similar demonstrations in other Jordanian towns and Palestinian refugee camps.

The Jordanian ruler, King Abdullah II, called for an immediate halt to "all military actions" in a statement, saying the attacks "targeted innocents among the civilians including women and children." The Jordanian leader also met Saturday with Abbas.

In Syria's al-Yarmouk camp, outside Damascus, hundreds of Palestinians also protested the attack, vowing to continue fighting Israel.

"It's a Zionist holocaust, but it won't dissuade us from going on with our struggle to achieve our goals," said Ali Barakah, 42, one of the protesters.

Representatives of the Palestinian factions based in Damascus vowed renewed attacks against Israeli towns in a news conference.

In an interview broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al-Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs for Qatar, said his country is "seeking a unified Arab stance" to help the Palestinians.

The Sudanese foreign ministry issued a statement calling for an end to the Israeli attacks that it described as "brutal raids" and saying Arab states should take a unified stand to protect the Palestinians.

Even one of Israel's allies in the region expressed dismay over the attacks. About 2,000 people protested in Istanbul Saturday, burning an Israeli flag.

Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has helped mediate talks between Israel and Syria, called U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask him to urge Israel to stop its attacks and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

"Today, I was planning to call Israeli Prime Minister Olmert regarding Israel-Syria talks but I canceled it. I am not calling because it is also a disrespectful to us. We are a country which has been working for peace."

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