Arab League delays emergency meeting

Egypt: Hamas 'ignored warnings,' but Israel must stop ops

pro--gaza protest lebanon 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
pro--gaza protest lebanon 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Arab League has delayed until Wednesday an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo to discuss Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the meeting was postponed because many of the ministers were engaged in separate meetings of Arab regional groups. "The time worries us very much because of the delay in holding the ministerial meeting but we will not remain silent and consultations are continuing," he said. The Arab and Islamic world reacted with shock to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday with protests around the region and calls for retaliation against Israel. 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 cease-fire between Hamas and Israel that expired a little over a week ago, had been trying to avoid the escalation. "Today everybody has to stand by the Palestinian people's side and stop this blind military action," the foreign minister said, calling on Israel to immediately halt its attacks. However, he also blamed Hamas for ignoring warnings that Israel would attack if rocket fire from Gaza didn't cease. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told The Jerusalem Post that the minister condemned the strike at the press conference, making it clear that Egypt is "opposed to this type of action." "We are upset that this operation is coming at a time when we were exerting our efforts in order to reach a renewed cease-fire," he said. "It is definitely undermining our efforts." Zaki said that the director of the ministry's Israel department had summoned Israeli ambassador Shalom Cohen, demanding that his operation be ceased "immediately." Syria, Qatar and Yemen called for an emergency Arab summit in the next few days to discuss the situation. A few hundred protesters gathered in Cairo Saturday, calling for an end to the strikes. In Lebanon, 4,000 protesters marched through Ein el-Hilweh 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 Hizbullah to attack Israel. In the Hizbullah stronghold of Beirut's southern suburbs, a few hundred people took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity with Gaza's Palestinians. Hizbullah called the attacks "an Israeli war crime and a genocide that requires immediate action from the international community and its institutions, especially the United Nations and the Security Council, because their suspicious silence is a clear collusion with this aggression." 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 Libyan foreign ministry issued a statement calling on Arabs to take solid action in "responding to the Israeli brutality against Gaza." Hundreds of protesters in Amman demonstrated, waving Hamas banners and condemning Israel's strikes. There were similar demonstrations in other Jordanian towns and Palestinian refugee camps. In Syria's al-Yarmouk camp, outside Damascus, hundreds of Palestinians protested the attack as well, vowing to continue fighting Israel. Representatives of the various Palestinian factions based in Damascus vowed renewed attacks against Israeli towns in a news conference Saturday. Even Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has helped mediate talks between Israel and Syria, called the attacks a blow to peace. "Today, I was planning to call Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert regarding Israel-Syria talks but I canceled it. I am not calling because it is also disrespectful to us. We are a country which has been working for peace."