Sunday, December 28, 2008

Anti-Israeli protests across Europe


LONDON (AP) — Protesters turned out across Europe Sunday to demonstrate against Israel's air assault on the Gaza Strip, while European leaders called on Israel and Hamas to end the bloodshed.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said this was a "dangerous moment" and called for an immediate cease-fire by both Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

About 700 protesters descended on the Israeli embassy in London's Kensington neighborhood a day after the airstrikes on Gaza began. More than 280 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza health official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain.

Police said half a dozen protesters outside the embassy in London were arrested Sunday. A scuffle between police and the protesters occurred when police tried to remove people so they could reopen a road that had been blocked off. At one point, protesters threw placards at officers.

Protests in Paris were peaceful. About 1,000 demonstrators turned out in the neighborhood of Barbes, which has a large Arab population, and near the landmark Arc de Triomphe.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy held telephone talks Sunday with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and condemned "the provocations that led to this situation as well as the disproportionate use of force." Abbas urged Hamas to renew a truce with Israel that collapsed last week. However, Abbas has had no influence in Gaza since Hamas seized control there in June 2007.

France's foreign minister said the EU was ready to increase its humanitarian support for Gaza and resume its monitoring role at Gaza border crossings.

Bernard Kouchner said in a statement Sunday that he spent the weekend on the phone with Israeli and Palestinian officials, his Egyptian counterpart, the Arab League and European foreign ministers.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday that Israel launched its strike because Gaza's Hamas rulers were smuggling weapons and building up "a small army."

The Israeli army says Palestinian militants have fired more than 300 rockets and mortars at Israeli targets over the past week, and 10 times that number over the past year.

"The unjustified rocket fire by Hamas must stop immediately. For its part, Israel must do everything possible to avoid civilian victims," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

Pope Benedict XVI called on the international community "not to leave anything untried to help the Israelis and Palestinians exit from this dead end" of violence. He is expected to visit the region in May.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was outraged by a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the operation is likely to continue.

"To go and bomb these defenseless people, and to openly say that this operation will be a long-lasting one, that it will be this or that, to me, is a serious crime against humanity," Erdogan said at a meeting of his ruling Islamic-rooted party.

Turkey is Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world but Erdogan said he was appalled that the attacks came as his country was helping mediate peace talks between Syria and Israel. He said the attacks were a "show of disrespect" toward Turkey.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated against the attacks on Gaza outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul.

Associated Press Writers Cecile Roux in Paris, Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Frances D'Emilio in Rome and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Source: AP


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