Arab Govts to Take Gaza Back to Security Council

Arab governments will take their case for an end to Israel’s attacks on Gaza back to the U.N. Security Council, Arab foreign ministers said on Wednesday

After a meeting of Arab ministers in Cairo, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the ministers strongly condemned what they called barbaric Israeli aggression.

"(The ministers) direct an immediate demand that the U.N. Security Council convene and ask it to issue a resolution that binds Israel to immediately stop the aggression," he said, reading from the ministerial statement.

Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo to seek a common position in response to Israel’s military attacks, which have killed at least 25 percent of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

The U.N. Security Council called on Sunday for an immediate end to all violence in Gaza, where Israeli air raids have killed close to 400 people in the last five days.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Arabs should take the Israeli attacks to the U.N. Security Council, even at a risk that a resolution would face a veto from one of the five permanent members of the council.
Arab Division

The meeting at the Arab League office comes at time of great division amongst Arab leaders who, under the pressure of an angry Arab public opinion, scramble to find a solution to stop Israel from carrying on with its massacre of Gaza.

"Everyone is watching as the intensity of Arab-Arab disputes increase unacceptably… We must unite our ranks and everyone must stop pouring oil on the fire," he added.

The most visible sign of division has been the war of words between Egypt and the Lebanese fighters group Hezbollah, which said Egyptians should come out on the streets.

In reply Egypt mocked the military record of Hezbollah, which in 2006 held its own for 34 days against an Israeli invasion of south Lebanon.

Some Arab governments, including Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, say Hamas shares the blame for the attacks, while demonstrators across the region have called on Egypt to stop cooperating with the Israeli blockade of the coastal strip.
Seeking a Response

Prince al-Faisal, the chairman of the meeting, said earlier on Wednesday Palestinian groups should hold a "decisive meeting that would result in a national unity government."

"This terrible massacre would not have happened if the Palestinian people were standing united behind one leadership," he said. "Your [Palestinian] Arab brothers cannot extend to you the hand of real help if you do not extend the hand of affection to each other," he added.

In the same vein, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called for an immediate meeting of rival Palestinian factions, at the opening of an emergency session on how to deal with Israel’s Gaza onslaught.

"We call on our Palestinian brothers to hold an immediate reconciliation meeting," Moussa told foreign ministers from the 22-member pan-Arab bloc.

Hamas pulled out of Egyptian-sponsored Palestinian reconciliation talks in November that were aimed at forming a non-factional Palestinian cabinet that would be acceptable to the international community.

Israel’s pounding of Gaza began following the expiration on December 19 of a six-month truce with Hamas, also mediated by Egypt, and a renewal of Gaza-based rocket fire.

The League talks were taking place as Israel said it was mulling proposals for a truce in Gaza but ruled out a French-proposed temporary halt.
A UN Resolution

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said the Palestinian leader was also in contact with members of the Security Council "in a bid to obtain a resolution … as soon as possible."

While Arab public opinion is firmly against Israel’s strikes, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to protest, Arab leaders have so far failed to take any decisions on the crisis.

"Arab nations could do a lot against Israel, but as they are divided, unfortunately they won’t do anything," Mustapha Kamel al-Sayed, political science professor at Cairo University, told AFP.

Reflecting popular displeasure with the lack of Arab action, several protesters were arrested in front of the Arab League headquarters in downtown Cairo on Wednesday.

( and Agencies)

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