News Column

Egypt PM Says Gaza Is 'a Disaster'

Nov. 16, 2012
Israeli fighter.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said Friday he witnessed "a disaster" in Gaza after Israeli attacks against rocket-firing militants.

The Israeli military attacked at least 130 targets and militants returned fire with 11 rockets launched from Gaza, the BBC reported.

At least 20 Palestinians and three Israelis have died since Israel began its offensive Wednesday.

The Israeli army began drafting 16,000 reservists after the government authorized the call-up of 30,000 troops.

Qandil visited the Council of Ministers building and a hospital in the city of Gaza, the BBC said

"What I am witnessing in Gaza is a disaster and I can't keep quiet. The Israeli aggression must stop," he said.

Qandil, who met with members of Hamas, which has governned Gaza since 2007, said Egypt would "spare no effort" to try to broker a cease-fire.

"Egypt is not planning to get the Palestinians to escalate; we are supporting them, but we don't want them to escalate," one official told Ahram Online. "On the contrary, we want a truce as soon as possible."

Qandil is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot.

Palestinian officials said militants and civilians, including at least five children, were among the Palestinians who died.

Israeli officials said two women and a man died when a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building in Kiryat Malachi Thursday.

Violence intensified in Gaza after Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari was killed Wednesday in an Israeli air attack. Israel said it had targeted dozens of rocket-launching sites and militants said they fired more than 350 rockets from Gaza.

Israel said its Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 130 rockets, the BBC said.

In Tel Aviv Thursday, residents took cover after air-raid sirens alerted them to a missile threat, the BBC said. Israel said two missiles had landed near Tel Aviv, one hitting an uninhabited area and another was thought to have landed at sea.

It was the first attempted attack on Tel Aviv since the Gulf War in 1991. Israeli officials earlier said a strike against Tel Aviv would be a "red line" that could trigger a ground war.

While in Egypt, Qandil urged Israel to honor its international commitments and agreements, vowing not to "remain silent" about the violence in Gaza.

Egypt is shipping humanitarian aid to Gaza, and is allowing allow other countries to send humanitarian aid through the Rafah Border Crossing, Ahram Online said.

Arab diplomatic officials in New York have been lobbying for an end to the attack.

During a meeting scheduled for Saturday in Cairo, Arab League leaders are expected to condemn the Israeli operation and call on the international community to act to stop it, Ahram Online said.

In Washington, Obama administration officials said they asked friendly Arab countries with ties to Hamas, which Washington and Jerusalem regard as a terrorist group, to use their influence to seek a way to defuse the hostilities.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner, however, repeated the U.S. position that Israel has a right to defend itself from Palestinian rocket fire and said the "onus was on Hamas" to stop it.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon planz to visit Jerusalem, Cairo and Ramallah, the West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, Tuesday, the United Nations said.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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