Turkish PM cautions defiant Israel over Gaza raid
CAIRO / JERUSALEM
Smoke rises after Israeli forces strike Gaza City. The Israeli military has widened its range of targets in the Gaza Strip to include the media operations of the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers. AP photo
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Israel of deliberately striking Gaza ahead of the elections in both 2008 and today, but urged that “the conditions of 2012 are different than they were in 2008.” He also called for an immediate cease-fire to be observed.
“Israel also attacked Gaza in 2008 prior to elections. Now elections are coming again and it is doing the same thing” Erdoğan told a Turkish-Egyptian Business Forum in Cairo yesterday.
“I am calling on [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. We are not in 2008. We are in 2012 and conditions are different than 2008. Make your calculations correctly,” Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.
Call for immediate truce
Erdoğan reiterated that a cease-fire should be declared immediately. “I’m calling on Israel and Gaza to provide a cease-fire immediately, within 24 hours. Extending the situation won’t bring anything to either side,” he said.
He criticized Western powers for wanting to pull the Arab world to pieces. “While Israel is attacking and sabotaging the peace, there will be no security or stability for any country in the region,” he said.
Erdoğan said Turkey wished to see a cease-fire declared in Gaza immediately, while Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told him that there were “some indications” a ceasefire could be reached soon, but said he had no firm guarantees.
“The party using disproportionate force is obvious,” Erdoğan said in a press conference with Morsi following the meeting of Turkey-Egypt High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Cairo on Nov. 17, according to Reuters. “Humanity will not forgive this if sovereign countries defend injustice under the guise of preserving Israel and its security,” he said.
“This hypocrisy should end. These double standards should end,” Erdoğan said.
“I had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the issue. I asked them to convince Israel and to give an important assurance. Israel did not accord with the previous Cairo ceasefire agreement, and I told them that this could not be repeated again.” Erdoğan also met the Arab League’s Secretary General Nabil Elaraby and Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani yesterday, in order to discuss the situation in Gaza.
Israel vows to ‘expand’ Gaza op
Israel continued its strikes on Gaza over the weekend, bringing the death toll in the Palestinian territory to 55, while vowing to continue to “expand” its operation despite international efforts to effect a truce.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday that Israel would not negotiate a truce with the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers as long as rocket fire continues from the Palestinian enclave.
“The first and absolute condition for a truce is stopping all fire from Gaza,” he said before meeting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, adding that all militant factions in Gaza would have to commit to ceasing rocket fire. “We want a long-term arrangement,” Lieberman said.
Gaza death toll rises
His remarks came on the fifth day of strikes on Gaza which have left 55 people dead, while militants from the strip have fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, one of which killed three, Agence France-Presse reported.
Earlier yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to “significantly expand” its operation against militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip even as he prepared to receive Fabius. “We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organizations,” Netanyahu said at a weekly Cabinet meeting. “The army is prepared to significantly expand the operation.”
Netanyahu said he was holding ongoing talks with world leaders, “and we appreciate their understanding of Israel’s right to self-defense.” His remarks came as thousands of Israeli troops backed by amor massed along the border, fueling fears of a ground assault.
Three of yesterday’s youngest victims were named as 3-year-old Tamer Abu Saifan and his 1-year-old sister Jumana, as well as 18-month-old Iyyad Abu Khusa.
A missile strike on the beachfront Shati refugee camp in Gaza City killed Tasneem al-Nahal, 13, and another adult member of her family, the Hamas-run Health Ministry and witnesses said. Aircraft also hit two media centers in Gaza City, wounding at least eight journalists, one of whom lost a leg, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said. Two Anatolia news agency reporters and one driver accompanying them were also wounded in a second strike on the media center.
In Tel Aviv, sirens sounded for the fourth straight day, sending pedestrians and drivers running for cover.
Seven rockets have been fired at Tel Aviv since Nov. 15, with three hitting the sea, three intercepted by Iron Dome and another slamming into open ground.