WORLD> Middle East
Arab world condemns Israeli attack on Gaza
Updated: 2008-12-28 15:07

CAIRO, Egypt – The Arab world reacted with outrage at Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, launching scattered protests and calls for retaliation against Israel.

A Palestinian holding a weapon and others shout anti-Israeli slogans during a protest in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh, near the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Saturday, December 27, 2008. [Agencies]

The Arab League announced a gathering of foreign ministers Wednesday would focus on the attack, said the organization's chairman Amr Moussa.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit extended his condolences to the Palestinians killed in the attacks and said Egypt, which brokered a six-month long truce between Hamas and Israel that expired a little over a week ago, has been trying to avoid such an escalation.

"Today everybody has to stand by the side of the Palestinian people and stop this blind military action," the foreign minister said.

Egypt also came under attack by many in the Arab world for its role, along with Israel, in closing the Gaza Strip after the militant group Hamas came to power in June 2007. The closure is often seen as abetting Israel's siege of the crowded strip of land home to 1.5 million people.

A few hundred protesters gathered in Cairo Saturday calling for an end to the strikes.

In Lebanon, about 4,000 protesters marched through a 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 the militant group Hezbollah to attack Israel.

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 militant group Hezbollah in a statement Saturday called the attacks "a war crime and a genocide," and criticized what it described as the "shameful" Arab silence.

The Libyan foreign ministry issued a statement calling on Arabs to take solid action in "responding to the Israeli brutality against Gaza," and urged the international community to stop Israel's attacks.

Saudi Arabia, which has put forward a plan calling for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world, in a statement Saturday condemned the Israeli attacks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Saturday in Riyadh, said the Saudi leader promised to call US President George W. Bush and other leaders to ask them to push Israel to halt its operations.

Hundreds of protesters in the Jordanian capital of Amman demonstrated, waving Hamas banners and condemning Israel's strikes. There were similar demonstrations in other Jordanian towns and Palestinian refugee camps.

The Jordanian ruler, King Abdullah II, called for an immediate halt to "all military actions" in a statement. He also met Saturday with Abbas after the Palestinian returned from Saudi Arabia. In a statement, the two leaders called on the international community to pressure Israel to end its military operations.

In Syria's al-Yarmouk camp, outside Damascus, hundreds of Palestinians also protested, vowing to continue fighting Israel.

"It's a Zionist holocaust, but it won't dissuade us from going on with our struggle to achieve our goals," said Ali Barakah, 42, one of the protesters.

The Sudanese foreign ministry issued a statement calling for an end to the Israeli attacks that it described as "brutal raids" and saying Arab states should take a unified stand to protect the Palestinians.

Even Turkey, with ties to Israel, expressed dismay as about 2,000 people protested in Istanbul, burning an Israeli flag.