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Cape Town - Local opposition is mounting to the growing violence between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu lashing out at “fanatics” on both sides claiming to be “acting with the approval of God”.
At the time of going to press, 40 Palestinians had died in four days of raids, the most recent on Saturday during a fresh Israeli strike on Rafah, in southern Gaza. In a separate strike on the southern city of Khan Yunis, another eight people were wounded, emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya told AFP on Saturday night.
Archbishop Tutu said innocent people were “paying with their blood” to advance the divisive and exclusive agendas of the “intolerant few”.
Cosatu also weighed in with spokesman Patrick Craven calling for an end to the Israeli attacks, and for the dismantling of the “apartheid” West Bank wall.
“Cosatu reaffirms its total solidarity with the Palestine people’s struggle, and its legitimate demand for full national sovereignty and human rights…” he said, reiterating the federation’s call to the SA government to withdraw its ambassador to Israel in protest.
Israeli aircraft attacked Hamas government buildings in Gaza, including the prime minister’s offices, after Israel’s cabinet authorised the mobilisation of up to 75 000 reservists in preparation for a possible ground invasion.
Gaza militants kept up cross-border salvoes, even firing a rocket at Israel’s biggest city, Tel Aviv, for the third straight day. The police said it was destroyed in mid-air by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery. No one was injured.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, said Israeli missiles wrecked the office building of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh – where he had met on Friday with the Egyptian prime minister – and also struck the police headquarters.
In the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashdod, a rocket ripped into several balconies. The police said five people were hurt.
With Israeli tanks and artillery positioned along the Gaza border, and no end in sight to hostilities now in their fourth day, Tunisia’s foreign minister travelled to the enclave in a show of Arab solidarity.
Closer to home, Tamer Almassri, of the Embassy of the State of Palestine in SA, called the ongoing carnage “brutal and unlawful”. Civilians were traumatised, Almassri said, by “war crimes” occurring in “grave breach of all norms of international law, and the ethical and moral principles governing our world”.
Tutu appealed to the UN and the world’s most powerful countries, “with vested geopolitical and economic interests in the region”, to prioritise the development of a solution for sustainable peace and security for the region.
This had to include the “return of illegally occupied land”, and the creation of two nation states. He added that the process must be overseen by UN peacekeepers.
Dov Segrev, Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, stressed, however, that the current conflict hadn’t begun with the Israeli operation on Wednesday.
He blamed Hamas for firing an anti-tank missile last Saturday in addition to hundreds of rockets fired at Israel.
He argued that the Israeli government had a right and duty to protect its citizens “from terrorists”.
In Cairo, a presidential source said Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi would hold four-way talks with the Qatari emir, the prime minister of Turkey and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in the Egyptian capital to discuss the Gaza crisis.
US President Barack Obama called Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan to discuss how they could help bring an end to the violence.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the US was emphasising diplomacy and “de-escalation” as keys to resolving the conflict.
Hamas says its cross-border attacks have come in response to Israeli strikes against Palestinian fighters in Gaza.
At a late night session on Friday, Israel’s cabinet decided to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75 000.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Israel and Egypt this week to push for an end to the fighting, UN diplomats said on Friday.
Meanwhile Gift of the Givers has announced it will release $50 000 (about R450 000) to buy urgent medical and surgical supplies, and surgical instruments, for the Gaza victims.
Representatives in Gaza sent a list of urgently needed items in short supply, according to organisation founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.
The items would be delivered some time on Sunday.