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Monday, 19 November 2012






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Arabs slam Israel over Gaza

EGYPT: Arab foreign ministers roundly denounced Israel's campaign in Gaza at an emergency meeting in Cairo Saturday, as Egypt tried to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The Arab ministers decided that Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi would head a delegation to Gaza in a show of solidarity, and to review the “usefulness” of their past diplomacy towards Israel.

The session came amid a flurry of meetings to coordinate an Arab and Turkish response to the four-day conflict, in which 45 Palestinians have been killed in air strikes and three Israelis have died in Hamas rocket attacks.

At a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Cairo, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said his government was in “vigorous” talks with Palestinians and Israel to bring an end to the fighting.

“There are some indications that there could be a ceasefire soon,” he said, though he added that there were still “no guarantees.” Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal was also in Cairo to meet Egypt's intelligence chief -- traditionally the point man in mediating truces with Israel -- and the visiting Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

A senior Hamas official told AFP the movement was reluctant to agree a truce because it does not believe mediators could guarantee the terms of a ceasefire. The “international community” had to put pressure on Israel, he said.

Israeli raids kill children

GAZA CITY: Israeli raids killed three children and critically wounded two more in Gaza early Sunday even as the army said there had been no rocket fire all night amid growing talk of a truce.

Aircraft also hit two media centres in Gaza City, wounding at least eight journalists, including one who lost his leg, emergency services said, as Egypt and France pressed efforts to broker a ceasefire and prevent an all-out ground war like that of 2008-9.

A senior Palestinian official in Gaza told AFP that amid serious efforts to end the violence, a deal could be reached later on Sunday or on Monday.

“There are serious talks to reach a truce, and it is possible that understandings will be reached today or tomorrow,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

With France's top diplomat Laurent Fabius en route to the region to join the truce efforts, an Israeli air strike in central Gaza killed an 18-month-old boy and critically wounded his two young brothers, hours after warplanes killed two more children in the north.

The latest deaths took the overall toll in Gaza to 49 from Israeli strikes since Wednesday with more than 450 people injured, the emergency services said. Nine of the dead have been children.

Two Gaza media buildings bombed

GAZA CITY: Israeli war planes targeted two media buildings in Gaza City on Sunday morning, injuring at least eight journalists, including one who lost his leg, medical officials said.

Separately, Israeli air strikes continued in other parts of Gaza, including the north, where two children were killed in raids on homes.

As the strikes continued, the Israeli army said there had been no rockets fired into the Jewish state since 9:00 pm on Saturday evening, although around 7:30 am there were reports of alert sirens in the south of the country.

And Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya's office said he had spoken by phone with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to discuss the ongoing violence.

The first Israeli strike on a media building came around 2:00 am local time.

“At least six journalists were wounded, with minor and moderate injuries, when Israeli warplanes hit the al-Quds TV office in the Showa and Housari building in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City,” health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The injured were taken to Gaza City's Shifa hospital. One journalist lost his leg in the attack, Qudra said.

A second hit on a different, nearby media building came around 7:00 am (0500 GMT).

S. American bloc condemns violence

BRAZIL: A major South American trading bloc condemned Saturday the “disproportionate use of force” in Gaza, calling on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately halt the violence that has claimed more than 40 lives.

MERCOSUR leaders expressed “their strongest condemnation of the violence taking place in Israel and Palestine,” said a statement released by Brazil, which currently holds the group's rotating presidency.

They “profoundly lament the lost of human lives and express their concern over the disproportionate use of force,” it added.

The statement also expressed support for the Palestinians' controversial bid to secure upgraded membership at the United Nations later this month, a move strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.

Hackers down hundreds of Israeli sites

ISRAEL: Online activist group Anonymous said on Saturday it had downed the websites of dozens of Israeli state agencies and a top bank in protest over the Jewish state's deadly air assault on Gaza.

The hackers said their operation “OpIsrael” had either damaged or completely erased the sites of more than 650 private and public institutions that included the Bank of Jerusalem -- one of the country's main finance houses.

“Bank of Jerusalem database has been deleted,” the group said in a tweet next to a link to the lender's non-functioning website.

It also claimed to have briefly downed the foreign ministry website in protest over an alleged Israeli threat to cut the Gaza Strip's Internet communications.

“For far too long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called 'Occupied Territories' by the Israel Defence Force,” Anonymous said in a statement.

“But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand.”

The group threatened Israel with the “unbridled wrath of Anonymous” if it went ahead with the Internet cable cut.

Israel's foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment on the threat, and no reference to the hack attack was made in official government statements on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Israeli defence officials have used Twitter to provide real-time warnings about incoming rockets and also make direct threats against Hamas.



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