Western leaders urge immediate ceasefire

Western leaders urge immediate ceasefire

Americans and Europeans deplore civilian casualties, while Arab leaders condemn Israeli 'massacres'

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of an explosion in Gaza City (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)
Illustrative photo of an explosion in Gaza City (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

World leaders called for an immediate ceasefire in the violence that flared up in the south over the weekend. While Western officials issued even-handed statements on the need to restore calm, announcements from the Arab world condemned Israel for what they called a “massacre.”

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “very concerned about [the] violence in Gaza” and “unacceptable rocket attacks against Israel” in a Twitter message Sunday morning. He called for calm and urged steps to prevent a “dangerous escalation” of the situation, which so far reportedly has cost more than 15 lives and caused several injuries.

A spokesman for the US State Department on Saturday issued a statement condemning the recent escalation. “We are deeply concerned by the renewal of violence in Southern Israel,” Victoria Nuland said. “We condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel in recent days, which has dramatically and dangerously escalated in the past day.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was one of the first officials to speak out on the events that transpired in the region this weekend. “I very much deplore the loss of civilian life. It is essential to avoid further escalation and I urge all sides to re-establish calm,” she said in a statement.

The French Foreign Ministry put out a statement condemning the rocket fire and the humanitarian consequences it caused, as well as regretting the loss of civilian life. Paris called for an immediate restoration of calm in the area to avoid further casualties. The French consul general was planning to visit Ashdod and Ashkelon — two cities severely affected by the rocket fire — on Sunday morning to “express his solidarity,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for the United Nations special envoy for the peace process, Robert Serry, called “on both sides to exercise maximum restraint,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

Arab leaders were less balanced in their reaction to the weekend’s violence.

Egypt’s foreign minister, for instance, said Cairo was “highly distraught by the Israeli attacks,” according to Ma’an. “Egypt is currently exerting efforts and making crucial calls for an immediate end to this Israeli escalation to end the bloodshed of our brothers,” Mohamed Kamel Amr told the state news agency MENA.

The Arab League went one step further, urging the international community to “take a firm stance to dissuade Israel from its continued massacres and violations of the rights of the Palestinian people,” Iranian Press TV reported. In a statement, the Arab League said that “Israel bears the responsibility, as an occupying force, to end the illegitimate blockade on Gaza and to protect the Palestinian people.”

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