CAIR/JERUSALEM - The Arab League has called on the international community to end Israeli air strikes on Gaza and to protect Palestinians, ahead of a foreign ministers’ meeting later Monday.
The call, in a report to be submitted to the ministerial meeting, comes as Israel pressed its campaign of punishing raids on Gaza into a seventh day on Monday, and the Palestinian death toll rose to 172, with another 1,230 wounded. The Arab League “affirmed the necessity of urgent steps for an immediate end to the Israeli aggression on Gaza and providing protection for the Palestinians”, the report said.
Israeli “air strikes on Gaza have become a matter that cannot be met with silence any more”, it said.
The pan-Arab organisation “demands that the international community intervene through its legal and humanitarian institutions to protect the Palestinian people”. The call echoes a demand by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is based.
The Israeli campaign was launched in response to rocket fire from Gaza. So far, no Israelis have been killed since the operation began on July 8, despite 777 rockets hitting Israel and more then 200 others intercepted, the army says. The Arab League meeting comes amid intense international efforts to broker a truce, and with Abbas seeking UN intervention.
The Arab response has been lacklustre compared with its reaction to an eight-day war in 2012, when it sent Arab ministers to visit the besieged enclave in a show of support.
An Egyptian foreign ministry statement said Monday’s meeting, due to begin at 1900 GMT, “is aimed at finding a solution to stop the shedding of Palestinian civilians’ blood and to formulate a common Arab stance on the issue”. So far, efforts to secure a ceasefire have been unsuccessful, with Cairo taking more hands-off approach than in 2012, when it brokered an end to the eight-day war. Ties between Cairo and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, have worsened since Egypt’s military ousted president Mohamed Morsi last July.
Morsi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an affiliate. After removing Morsi, Egypt’s military-installed authorities designated the Brotherhood a “terrorist” organisation.
World leaders have been in contact with Egyptian officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to discuss ways of ending the latest conflict.
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday that his government was not contemplating a ceasefire yet, hoping the military campaign would deter Hamas in the future. A Hamas official said the movement, the main power in Gaza since 2007, has said it would not agree to a ceasefire without gaining terms.
Meanwhile, three Israeli Jews arrested for the murder of a Palestinian teenager have confessed to abducting him and burning him alive, officials said on Monday, an incident that helped trigger a week of Israeli-Hamas fighting around the Gaza strip.
Easing a court gag order on the case, Israel said the suspects, two of them minors, had told interrogators that in killing Mohammed Abu Khudair they sought revenge for the murder of three Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank last month.
The names of the suspects, remanded by an Israeli court pending a formal indictment, were not immediately given.
Tensions escalated around the two incidents. More than 166 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed by Israeli action against Gaza, run by the Hamas group.
Hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.
The adult suspect facing the gravest allegations might plead mitigation in citing past mental illness.
“I expect soon to get the investigative material, in which I will look for support for the assessment there is a complex problem in the matter of of my client’s criminal culpability,” an attorney for Honenu, an ultranationalist legal aid organisation, said.
A Palestinian was killed by the Israeli army in a clash near the southern West Bank city of Hebron early on Monday, his family said.
Relatives identified him as Munir Ahmed Badarin, in his early twenties.
They said he was shot near Al-Samua in the southernmost part of the West Bank, and died later in hospital.
Israeli military sources said soldiers shot Badarin after he and others threw stones and firebombs at Israeli vehicles passing nearby.
An army spokeswoman said earlier that troops in the West Bank had arrested 23 Palestinians overnight as part of their ongoing campaign to hunt down those who kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers last month.
Palestinian security sources said the soldiers had arrested 13 people from the Hebron area overnight, three of them Hamas parliamentarians: Nayef Rajub from Dura, Mohammed Jheisha from Idhna and Mohammed Akel from Dhahiriya.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club said in a statement Israel had detained 11 Hamas parliamentarians overnight, raising the number of Palestinian lawmakers being held by Israel to 34, 23 of whom had been arrested since mid-June.
The kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teenagers triggered a chain of events which has led to the latest confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has claimed more than 170 Palestinian lives in just six days.
After the teens were snatched on June 12, Israel blamed Hamas and began a widespread crackdown on the movement in the West Bank, sparking a surge in rocket fire from Gaza.
After a Palestinian teenager was killed by Jewish extremists on July 2 in an apparent revenge killing, the fire from Gaza worsened, and Israel launched a major air campaign on July 8.