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  Middle East & Africa
Int'l Community Condemns Israeli Attacks on Civilians
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh

The international community on July 30 reacted with shock over the Israeli assault on civilians in the southern Lebanese village of Qana, which killed at least 57 Lebanese, including 37children.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has condemned the most recent massacre at the hands of the Israeli army in Lebanon as atrocious.

"This horrible crime is a severe shock to humanity's conscience and is a further proof to the ongoing and unchanged Israeli policy of using destructive weaponry for the indiscriminate killing of human beings and taking for granted all international laws and pacts which prohibit the killing of civilians in times of war and armed conflicts," Sheikh Abdullah said.

He further renewed the UAE's complete steadfastness with Lebanon and re-expressed his country's readiness to exert all efforts to help the crisis-hit country and alleviate the suffering of Lebanese brothers who have been falling victims to killing and displacement for two weeks now. Sheikh Abdullah reaffirmed the UAE's support to the Lebanese government's call to the UN Security Council to immediately and effectively put an end to Israel's aggression against Lebanon.

The UN Security Council, in a presidential statement, expressed "extreme shock and distress" over Israel's bombing of civilians in Lebanon.

The statement "strongly deplores this loss of innocent life and the killing of civilians in the present conflict."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan also condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the Israel's attack.

The United States urged Israel to show restraint after more than 50 civilians were killed in Israeli air raids.

"This was a horrible event. We continue to counsel the Israelis on the importance of restraint," White House spokesman Tony Snow said at a briefing.

U.S. President George W. Bush also called for a "sustainable peace" after Israeli air strikes.

The United States has refused to condemn the military action by Israel against Lebanon since July 12 by claiming that Israel is defending itself against Hezbollah.

Moreover, the United States has resisted international calls for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement that he was "shocked" by the fact that so many civilians were killed in the attack and expressed deep sorrow and sympathy to the victims and their families.

South African President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday joined world leaders in expressing South Africa's outrage and condemnation on the bombings.

The South African government said there would be no "military solution" to the problem in the Middle East and called on the international community to do everything in their power to stop the fighting in the region.

In a statement issued by Brazil's Foreign Ministry, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he rejected "the acts of indiscriminate violence and the use of military force against civilian targets by all parties" in the conflict.

He also stressed Brazil's call for an immediate ceasefire in the region.

Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it condemned the tactics used by Hezbollah, and supported a call made by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to end hostilities in southern Lebanon.

In Venezuela, Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the government joined the worldwide rejection of Israel's attack, adding that "this murder of dozens of women and children has no justification whatsoever."

China strongly condemned the Israeli attack and urged the two sides involved in the conflict to cease fire immediately to avoid further disaster, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

"The Lebanon-Israel conflict has caused grave humanitarian damage," he noted.

In Brussels, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy, said in a statement that Israel's attack on Qana means an escalation of violence that is unjustifiable at a time when the international community is jointly working to find a solution to the conflict.

The Cairo-based Arab League (AL) said it strongly denounced the "barbaric" Israeli attack on the southern Lebanese village of Qana and the unabated Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

In the statement, AL Secretary-General Amr Moussa called for "an open international investigation into the Qana massacre along with other war crimes committed by Israel in Lebanon, especially those against civilians."

Finland, holding the current rotating presidency of the European Union, said in a statement that Finland is shocked and dismayed by the Israeli air strikes on Qana and there is no justification for attacks causing casualties among innocent civilians.

Egypt issued a presidential statement and condemned Israel's attack on Qana as "irresponsible," saying "the dire need of issuing an international resolution on immediately halting military operations."

Egypt also urged the UN Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and work on bringing about a halt to Israel's onslaught on the Lebanese people and infrastructure.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haneya told reporters before his weekly cabinet meeting that the latest Israeli air raid on Qana was a big shock for the Palestinian government and people.

Syria's official SANA news agency reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemned the Israeli attack on the village of Qana as "state terrorism."

In a statement, Jordanian King Abdullah II strongly condemned the Israeli air strike in Qana, saying "this criminal aggression forms a strong violation of the international law." He also called for an immediate ceasefire and a solution to the crisis.

Kuwaiti parliament speaker Jassem al Kharafi said the Israeli "savage and barbaric" aggression against Lebanon surpassed all moral and humanitarian limits, disregarding international law, human rights and the world community.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Sunday urged UN Secretary General Kofi Annan by telephone to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council to arrange an immediate cease-fire.

Before the government's weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret for the civilian deaths in Qana but said Israel would not rush into a ceasefire.

A Lebanese official said around 750 people have been dead there since July 12, when Israel started a campaign of airstrikes after the Lebanon-based guerilla group, Hezbollah, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others.

A Palestinian official has said that Hamas will carry out attacks on Israel in response to its attack on the Lebanese village of Qana.

Reuters, quoting Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas MP, said "In the face of this open war against the Arab and Muslim nations all options are open, including striking the depth of the Zionist entity."

Asked if that meant suicide bombings against Israelis, al-Masri said: "All options are open. Every means is allowed. This is a crime and state terror and a crossing of all red lines."

Shortly after Hamas issued its statement on July 30, a rocket fired from Gaza hit the Israeli border town of Sderot.

Medics said a 29-year-old woman was wounded. Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for the launch.

Besides its offensive in Lebanon against Hezbollah, Israel has been engaged in an offensive against Palestinian fighters for more than a month since an Israeli soldier was abducted in a cross-border raid from Gaza.

The Palestinian prime minister called last week for the US to force Israel to end its offensive in the Gaza Strip. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, had refused to meet him.

"All that we ask the American administration is to take a moral stance towards the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian suffering and to bear its responsibility as a superpower in this world," Ismail Haniya said.

He called on America "to restrain the Israeli aggression and stop it."

"In Gaza, there is what resembles a real human catastrophe," Haniyeh said.

In the meantime, Israel has suspended its air attacks on southern Lebanon for 48 hours following meetings between Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister.

The ceasefire began shortly after midnight on July 30 and comes after Israel triggered international outrage when its air force bombed a building in the village of Qana in southern Lebanon, killing at least 50 civilians.

"Israel has agreed to a 48-hour suspension of aerial activity in south Lebanon to investigate today's tragic incident in Qana," said Adam Ereli, a US state department spokesman in Jerusalem.

Israel's ground offensives against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon will continue despite the halt to bombing raids, and Ereli said that Israel retained the right to "take action against targets preparing attacks against it."

Israel will also coordinate with the United Nations to allow a 24-hour window for residents of southern Lebanon to leave the area if they wish, Ereli said.

The announcement came after Rice held extended meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem.

Israel's move followed the cancellation of a visit by Rice to Beirut on Sunday after the Lebanese government said it could not hold negotiations until there was an immediate ceasefire.

The United Nations Security Council said in a statement that it "strongly deplores" the attack on Qana but stopped short of calling for an immediate end to the fighting.

"The Security Council expresses its concern at the threat of escalation of violence with further grave consequences for the humanitarian situation," said the statement issued on July 30.

The air raid on the southern village of Qana on July 30 - the bloodiest single attack in Israel's 19-day-old offensive against Hezbollah - aborted Rice's plans to travel to Beirut after the Lebanese government told her she would not be welcome.

Israel's UN ambassador Dan Gillerman told the Security Council that Qana was "a hub for Hezbollah" and said Israel had urged villagers to leave.

But Lebanon said Israeli air strikes on roads and vehicles made it impossible for people in the south to flee.

Arab and Islamic leaders condemned the attacks and in Beirut protesters smashed their way into the United Nations headquarters as thousands massed outside chanting "Death to Israel, Death to America."

Gunmen also stormed and looted the UN compound in Gaza City during a protest over the Qana bombing. At least two people were wounded.

The small village of Qana first came to the world's attention in 1996 when Israel shelled a UN compound in the village during its 'Grapes of Wrath' operation, killing 106 Lebanese civilians who were sheltering there.






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