Assault on Gaza: Day of grief and defiance

By Donald Macintyre in Jabalya, northern Gaza
Monday, 3 March 2008

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, rejected international calls yesterday to end the “excessive” and “disproportionate” military operation in Gaza which has claimed the lives of 101 Palestinians – including many children and other civilians –since Wednesday.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called on Israel to halt the air and ground attacks which on Saturday alone claimed the lives of at least 54 Palestinians in the most lethal single day of violence since the beginning of the second intifada more than seven years ago. The Slovenian EU presidency – while condemning the rocket attacks from Gaza which Israel says it is trying to stop – condemned the “recent disproportionate use of force by the Israel Defence Forces against the Palestinian population of Gaza, noted the death of “innocent children” and said that such acts of “collective punishment” were against international law.

But as the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, announced that he was breaking off US-brokered negotiations with Israel as long as its “aggression” continued, Mr Olmert told the weekly meeting of the Israeli Cabinet: “Israel has no intention of stopping the fight against the terrorist organisations even for a minute.” He declared: “With all due respect … no one has the right to preach morality to Israel for employing its elementary right of self-defence.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Israel’s most important ally in the Muslim world, also decried the “disproportionate force” used in attacks which were killing “children and civilians” and complained that Israel was rejecting a “diplomatic” solution to the conflict.

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