By Arab News
Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi branded on an Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip in which more than 23 Palestinians have been killed as a “blatant aggression against humanity,” the official MENA news agency said.
“Egypt will not leave Gaza on its own … What is happening is a blatant aggression against humanity,” he said, as his prime minister, Hisham Qandil, visited Gaza vowing to boost efforts to secure a truce to end the bloodletting.
“I tell them in the name of all the Egyptian people that the Egypt of today is not the Egypt of yesterday and that the Arabs of today are different than the Arabs of yesterday,” he said after Friday prayers at a Cairo mosque.
He also ordered the foreign ministry to summon the Israeli envoy over the attacks, and called for an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers, which is slated to be held in Cairo today.
Qandil went to Gaza yesterday and vowed to intensify Cairo’s efforts to secure a truce and end Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza.
“Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce,” he told a news conference in Gaza City’s Shifa hospital after seeing some victims from the latest strike.
In one chaotic moment, a man rushed toward the leaders, shouting as he held up the body of a 4-year-old boy. The two men cradled the lifeless boy who Hamas said was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Fighting to hold back tears, Qandil told reporters that the Israeli operation must end.
“What I saw today in the hospital, the wounded and the martyrs, the boy … whose blood is still on my hands and clothes, is something that we cannot keep silent about,” he said.
In Cairo itself, several thousand people demonstrated outside the Al-Azhar mosque to protest against the Israeli aggression.
Palestinian rocket squads aimed at Tel Aviv for a second straight day yesterday. Sirens wailed across Israel’s main metropolis moments before an explosion was heard, but police said the rocket appeared to have fallen into the sea.
Tunisia’s foreign minister will visit Gaza today as part of a delegation to offer support to Hamas and increase Arab pressure on Israel.
“An official Tunisian high-level delegation led by the minister of foreign affairs (Rafik Abdesslem) and the director of the presidential cabinet will go to Gaza tomorrow in confirmation of its initial position to provide all political support for Gaza,” the spokesman for the Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, said.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan decried Israeli’s strikes as a pre-election stunt and said he would discuss the crisis with Mursi in Cairo this weekend.
“Before this election they (Israel) shot these innocent people in Gaza for reasons they fabricated,” he told reporters in Istanbul. “The dominant world powers are now making the Gaza people and fighters pay, and as the Republic of Turkey we are with our brothers in Gaza and their just cause.”
“I hope (a) decision of the UN Security Council and the attitude of the dominant powers will end Israel’s offensive attitude,” Erdogan said.
“We don’t have any relations with Israel left. The countries which have relations with Israel should talk to them.”
Thousands of people across the Middle East protested against Israel’s aerial bombardment, with some chanting “death to Israel” and others calling for the bombing of Tel Aviv.
In Cairo, several thousand protesters gathered outside Al-Azhar mosque after weekly Muslim prayers and chanted “We will go to Gaza in our millions,” swearing to “sacrifice ourselves for you, Palestine.”
“It’s the least we can do,” protester Ahmed Selim told AFP. “We need to show Israel our anger.”
Before the Cairo demonstration, influential Egyptian-born theologian Yusuf Al-Qardawi said in a sermon at Al-Azhar that the “Muslim nation should join ranks.”
“Our ummah (the worldwide Muslim community) is the strongest of ummahs,” he said. “Israel the arrogant cannot humiliate it, despite its missiles and its arms.”
In the central West Bank city of Ramallah, more than 1,000 protesters gathered shouted slogans of support for Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and waving Hamas’ green flag, AFP correspondents said. “Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv!” they chanted.
In Lebanon, thousands turned out for demonstrations in Palestinian refugee camps in the north and south of the country in outrage over the onslaught, echoing the calls from Ramallah.
“O Qassam, O beloved, bomb and destroy Tel Aviv,” they shouted in reference to the rocket and the armed wing of Hamas of the same name.
Demonstrations in Tehran and 700 other Iranian cities after Friday prayers, called for by the authorities, saw crowds chanting “death to Israel” and “death to America,” according to news agency ISNA.
“One must salute the Palestinians’ popular resistance and the response they have given to the Zionist regime (by firing rockets into Israel),” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said at the weekly prayers in Tehran, IRNA news agency said.
“Your method is good and you can bring the Zionist regime to its knees,” he added.
The Israeli army started calling up 16,000 reservists yesterday, as officials said the Jewish state was preparing for a possible ground offensive into the Gaza Strip. “They’re distributing emergency call-up notices now, the process has started,” an army spokeswoman said.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned the killing of innocent civilians in the escalating Middle East conflict and called on both Israel and Gaza militants to cease hostilities.