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Arab League to address Gaza crisis Monday

By RIA Novosti

Cairo : The Arab League plans to discuss the spiraling crisis in the Gaza Strip at an emergency session in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday, a senior official in the 22-nation regional organization said.

Ahmed Ben Helli said Arab diplomats, Secretary General Amr Mousa and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials will gather to discuss diplomatic measures to counter what he called Israeli aggression against the Palestinian enclave.

“The Secretariat of the Arab League is preparing a detailed report on the situation in Gaza,” Ben Helli said.

Israel cut fuel supplies and shut all border crossings with the Palestinian territory controlled by the radical Islamic group on Friday in response to ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza.

The UN condemned the move on Friday as Gaza’s only power plant was switched off, plunging the center of Gaza City into darkness and triggering the closure of factories and filling stations. Hospitals have switched to autonomous electricity plants, with health officials warning patients could be at risk if the situation does not change within hours.

Egypt’s president called on Israel to end air attacks against Gazans and lift the blockade, the official MENA news agency reported on Monday.

Speaking over the telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Hosni Mubarak urged an end to “Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people,” and warned that a continuing blockade of Gaza could evolve into a humanitarian catastrophe there.

A PNA official spokesman in Egypt, Nabil Shaath, who earlier called on the organization to step in, also said the Israeli army had killed 40 Palestinians in the past week.

Israel has been conducting air attacks on Gaza as well as ground raids into the enclave to curb rocket attacks into southern areas of the Jewish state. Militants in the Palestinian enclave have launched more than 200 rockets at Israel in the same period, according to the Israeli military.

Tensions spiraled as Israelis and Palestinians resumed peace talks late last year after a 7-year hiatus, under their stated commitment at the U.S.-hosted Middle East summit in November.

Israeli President Shimon Peres proposed on Sunday putting any peace deal to a referendum to give it more weight and counter opposition calls for dropping political contacts with the Palestinians.

The president, a largely ceremonial position in Israel, said the government and the opposition in parliament should coordinate their position so that the people can decide.