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Int’l community calls on Israel to end Gaza siege

By Xinhua

Beijing : The international community asked Israel to end its newly strengthened siege on the Gaza strip, which is causing a looming humanitarian crisis in the region.

The Arab League (AL) Council held an emergency meeting Monday on the Gaza situation, urging the UN Security Council to help ending the crisis.

AL Secretary General Amr Moussa called on countries that took part in the Annapolis conference in the United States to shoulder their responsibilities for Gaza.

Last Thursday, Israel decided to tighten a siege that has been imposed on Gaza since mid-June last year, when Hamas took control of the coastal strip. All crossings leading to Gaza were closed down on Friday as a result.

Israel barred fuels and basic food products from Gaza, in retaliation to ongoing rocket attacks on Israel by militants in Gaza.

The only power plant in Gaza was forced to shut down Sunday due to fuel shortage, plunging large parts of the strip into darkness.

On Monday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak respectively, urging Israel to stop its continued military operation and siege on Gaza.

Syria also called for a lift of the siege, warning against a humanitarian tragedy due to what it called the Israeli violations of the simplest human rights norms.

Libyan Foreign Ministry presented an urgent note to the AL, calling on it to help lift the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza.

Meanwhile, Tunis expressed its deep worry about the situation in Gaza, calling for effective international interference to put an end to Palestinians’ suffering.

Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry appealed to the United Nations for pressuring Israel to stop the siege. The ministry called on the UN Security Council to make efforts in realizing peace in the Middle East.

Jordanian Prime Minister Nader Dahabi also reiterated Jordan’s full support to the Palestinians. He said Jordan’s political and diplomatic moves are focused at this stage on “putting an end to Israeli military violations in the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of innocent civilians.”

France “strongly condemned” the Israeli siege, which it said perpetrated a “collective punishment” on a population “already quite affected.”

It called for the reopening of negotiations and the immediate resumption of delivering fuel in order to ensure electricity.

The European Union also voiced concerns over the cutting of fuel supplies to Gaza.

EU Commissioner for external relations Bentita Ferrero-Waldner said “The recent decision to close all border crossings into Gaza as well as cutting provision of fuel will exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation.”

Moreover, the U.N. Security Council was scheduled to start a closed-door meeting Monday afternoon to help end the worsening situation in Gaza.

The Israeli siege has also caused anger among Palestinians overseas .Palestinian refugees in Syria staged a protest against their claimed “Israeli massacres” in Gaza and the siege on the strip.

The protestors, marching in the Yarmouk refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, called on the Arabs to take a united stance to face up to the Israeli aggressions.

In response to appeals and pressure across the world, Israel on Monday evening decided to slightly ease the siege on Gaza, allowing medical supplies and a minimal amount of diesel fuel for the power plant in Gaza. But restrictions would remain on petrol used by cars.

Israeli Defense Minister Barak made the decision following a security assessment, which found rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza had dropped after the latest siege, Israeli media reported.