Gaza carnage overshadows West Bank escalation

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vows to continue his campaign in the Gaza Strip despite an international outcry over the ground and air operation that have killed 73 Palestinians over the past two days following the death of one Israeli civilian last week in a militant rocket strike. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas suspended all contacts with Israel over the assault. (AFP, March 2) The European Union criticized Israel’s “disproportionate use of force,” while the White House used more neutral language. US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters at President George W. Bush’s ranch in Texas, “The violence needs to stop and the talks need to resume.” The UN Security Council, meeting in an emergency session, urged all sides to “immediately cease all acts of violence.” (AFP, March 2)

The official Saudi news agency SPA quoted an official without giving his name: “Saudi Arabia, which condemns the Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and the threats of Israeli officials to turn Gaza into an inferno, sees that Israel through its actions is copying the war crimes of the Nazis… Saudi Arabia calls on the international community to… work to stop the Israeli war machine and prevent it from carrying out mass killings and destroying the rights and property of the Palestinian people.” (AFP, March 2) An editorial by Hassan Hanizadeh in the Tehran Times also raised Nazi analogies, accusing Israel of a “blitz” and a “new holocaust in Gaza.” (Tehran Times, March 3)

Hundreds of Israeli peace activists protested March 2 outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv against the IDF’s operation in Gaza. Participants held signs reading “No despair Gaza, we’ll end the occupation” and “Don’t worry Ehud, Bush will be meeting you at The Hague.” Some protesters clashed with police who barred the Defense Ministry’s gates. (YNet, March 2)

The carnage in Gaza has pushed the escalating violence in the West Bank from the headlines. A 14-year-old boy was shot dead and more than 45 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli forces in at Beit ‘Awa near Hebron March 2, with IDF troops firing on townspeople and protesters. In Hebron, 21 were injured when IDF troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets to stones thrown by protesters at a march in solidarity with Gaza, organized by students form al-Quds Open University. (Ma’an News Agency, March 3)

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