Turkey, Egypt slam Israel on Gaza on eve Cairo meet
ANKARA / BEIRUT
The conflict takes its toll on both sides. A Palestinian woman cries in front of a house damaged in an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip as Israeli relatives mourn during the funeral of Itzik Amsalam, who was killed after a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi.
International calls have put Turkey and Egypt at the center of efforts for an immediate truce between Hamas and Israel with an intense diplomatic campaign including talks with the United States, Russia and the United Nations on the eve of the Cairo Summit which will focus on preventing ongoing armed conflict from turning into a new war.
In the third day of the Israeli Operation Pillar of Defense, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Nov. 16 both slammed Israel for the operation and expressed full support and solidarity with the Palestinians. The Arab League will convene in Cairo on Nov. 17 to specifically discuss Israeli operation in which Erdoğan and Morsi are also likely to deliver a speech. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will also be present at the meeting.
In response to questions from reporters after performing Friday prayer at an Istanbul mosque, Erdoğan said the latest Israeli attack against Gaza is one of the most brutal attacks seen against Palestine.
He recalled that the Israeli operation to Gaza in late 2008, which claimed the lives of 1,500 Palestinians, also took place when elections were approaching. “They are again on the eve of elections. There is an election there next month too. Before this election, the [Israeli] administration resorted to shooting that innocent people in Gaza by organizing such an attack again for motives it made up on its own,” Erdoğan said.
Indirectly criticizing world’s heavyweights for putting the blame on Gaza, people which he called insurgents, Erdoğan said “As the government of the Republic of Turkey, we stand by our Gazan brothers and their rightful case.”
Erdoğan said he and Morsi would have talks on the issue over the weekend and make a joint statement. According to Erdoğan, at least 21 Palestinians were killed and 100 others were wounded while Israel’s casualty was only three.
“Of course the damage is another story. [Israel] is still continuing these attacks, its brutal attitude. I hope that Israel ends this brutal attitude both with a decision that the UN Security Council will take and the attitude the dominant powers of the world will adapt,” he said.
Erdoğan was scheduled to hold a phone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon late Friday before departing for Cairo on Saturday.
Turkey and the U.S. have butt heads on who is to blame as the main party responsible for the escalating violence, with the former accusing Israel and the latter pointing to Hamas. The U.S. called Turkey and Egypt to use their influences over Hamas to end rocket attacks on Israeli territories. Both countries were in close contact with the Hamas but issued similar calls to the U.S. to do the same with Israel.
Bilateral relations with Israel and Gaza visit
In response to a question from reporters on how this issue would affect the relations between Israel and Turkey, Erdoğan claimed there were no such relations. “There is no such a thing left as ‘our relations.’ Which relations are you asking about?” Erdoğan said.
“Right now, I do not have such a thing in my program,” Erdoğan replied when asked whether he had plans to visit Gaza.
When reminded of Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s Thursday remarks suggesting that Turkey and Israel should hold talks in a bid to stop the tragedy in Gaza, Erdoğan said: “Who will meet with Israel? The most ideal place to meet with Israel right now is the UN Security Council. They [the members of the UN Security Council] should be meeting it. Also, those which are in good relations with Israel should meet. We have no contacts regarding meeting with Israel.”
Gül warns of dangerous escalation
President Abdullah Gül warned of dangerous escalation in the region, adding the world should not turn a blind eye to such developments, in response to reporters’ questions during a visit to Kastamonu.
“Everybody should say ‘stop’ to this and should intervene in this situation. Otherwise, a very bloody incident will occur in front of the eyes of entire humanity and this should not be allowed. Israel will not gain any advantages out of this either,” Gül said.
“In this way, any hope for the two states, Palestine and Israel, to live next to each other will be jeopardized,” he said.
Rockets reach two major citiesJERUSALEM
Hamas militants fired a rocket aimed at Jerusalem on Nov. 16, causing no damage or injuries but setting off air raid sirens throughout the city and opening a new front in three days of fierce fighting between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip. Hamas have already launched several rockets into Tel Aviv. Police said the rocket crashed into the sea off Tel Aviv, as sirens wailed across the city. With the rocket fire intensifying, Israeli tanks and troops gathered outside Gaza. The Israeli army said it had started calling up 16,000 reservists, with officials saying the military was preparing for a possible ground offensive into Gaza. In the escalating conflict, 20 Palestinians and three Israelis were killed. “It is not our intention to go to war and we are hopeful that this operation will not take a minute more than required,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said, according to Reuters. In Lebanon, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said firing long-range rockets from Gaza into Israel represents a “very significant development.” “The firing of Fajr 5 rockets on Tel Aviv today shows the maturation, the wisdom and strength, and the courage of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip.”
Egypt at the center of Gaza-Israel diplomacy
Egypt finds itself at the center of diplomatic efforts to end the violence flaring up in Gaza, with countries calling on Cairo to press both sides for the de-escalation of tension. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil visited the Gaza Strip on Nov. 16 to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.
“Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce,” he told reporters. He left the Palestinian enclave after meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ prime minister. Qandil’s visit came after Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi denounced Israel’s attacks as “a blatant aggression against humanity.”
“Cairo will not leave Gaza on its own. Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday and Arabs today are not the Arabs of yesterday,” Morsi said.
Tunisia’s foreign minister is also set to visit to Gaza on Nov. 17 “to provide all political support for Gaza.” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Morsi in a phone call that Russia supports Egypt’s efforts on the issue. Putin said “he supports Cairo’s efforts directed at normalizing the situation.” Israel’s vice premier said they are in contact with Egypt. “We are in contact with the Egyptian defense ministry and it could be a channel through which a ceasefire is reached,” Israeli vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Egypt to urge Hamas to stop the violence. The U.S. has also asked Turkey, Egypt and some European countries to urge Hamas to stop its rocket attacks from Gaza.