Monday, December 29, 2008

africa News Today - AN/Today - Miliband: A dark moment in Gaza - Israeli air raids on Gaza come at a "very dark moment" in the Middle East peace process, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the BBC.

Miliband: A dark moment in Gaza

David Miliband
Mr Miliband called for an urgent ceasefire

Israeli air raids on Gaza come at a "very dark moment" in the Middle East peace process, UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the BBC.

He said events threatened to derail attempts to build a "comprehensive peace" and fuelled radicalism.

Calling for an urgent ceasefire, he said a "terrible price" was being paid for faltering peace negotiations.

There are expectations Israel may launch a ground invasion in Gaza, as it continues a third day of air strikes.

The UN says about 100 rockets or mortars have been fired into Israel following the attacks which began on Saturday.

They came less than a week after the expiry of a six-month-long ceasefire deal with Hamas - the militant movement which controls Gaza.

'Very dangerous'

Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was concerned about the impact on the chances for achieving a peace agreement and the danger the raids would radicalise more people.

"I think this is very dangerous and a very dark moment," he said.

"We are now paying a terrible price for the slow and faltering pace of negotiations not just over the last year, probably not just over the last 15 years - and it is the fundamental need for a comprehensive settlement that is the only way to resolve this in the interests of the Palestinians or the Israelis."

He said any "innocent loss of life" was "unacceptable" and continued calls for a ceasefire.

He said while some people in Gaza were "sick" of Hamas, there were plenty of Palestinians prepared to believe they had to fight "an eye for an eye".

The authority of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas had to be reinforced, he added.

"Everyone wants both sides to stop and everyone wants those with influence to use that influence to put a stop to this," he said, adding the dangers for both Palestinians and Israelis were "very, very large".

Palestinian medics say 300 people have so far been killed and nearly 1,000 injured. Two Israelis have died in militant rocket fire and several injured by missiles fired from Gaza.

Israel says the aim of the strikes is to stop rockets and missiles being launched on the southern part of Israel.

The exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel, while its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, called the Israeli attacks an "ugly massacre".



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