US falls short of condemning killings

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The Independent US

The United States looked away and deferred judgement rather than delivering a forthright condemnation of Israel for the attack on Palestinian demonstrators that left so many children dead.

Behind the tortured syntax of diplomacy, President George Bush said he was continuing to "urge restraint" on Israel while saying it was "essential that people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace".

"We'll get clarification from the government," President Bush continued. "But I will continue to speak out about the need for all parties to respect innocent life in the Middle East."

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was equally circumspect, saying he was "profoundly concerned by reports" that more than 10 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza. He went on to say that "both sides" should "exercise restraint". Later, though, Tony Blair called the Israeli offensive in Rafah "unacceptable and wrong".

The EU was more forthright, however, saying the killing was "completely disproportionate" and that Israelis showed a "reckless disregard" for life. Brian Cowen, the Irish Foreign Minister, said on behalf of the EU: "The killing of children does not serve any legitimate cause and degrades any purpose which it purports to advance."

Meanwhile the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, said: "This is a war crime. This is genocide."