Egypt condemns Israeli ground offensive in Gaza

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The Independent Online

Egypt condemned Israel's ground offensive in the Gaza Strip and called for an end to the Jewish state's "savage aggression" against the Palestinian territory.

In a statement from the Egyptian presidency seen on Sunday, Egypt said it "places the onus on Israel for the innocent civilians martyred and wounded."

Israeli tanks and infantry launched a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip on Saturday after eight days of deadly air strikes that killed more than 440 Palestinians, at least a quarter of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

Four Israelis have been killed by rockets which Palestinian militants in Gaza have continued to fire at southern Israel.

"Egypt condemns in the strongest possible terms the beginning of Israel's ground operations in the Gaza Strip and the invasion of the territory by its forces," the statement said.

"Egypt once again calls upon Israel to end its aggression immediately and without preconditions, and calls upon the United Nations Security Council and Quartet to swiftly fulfil their responsibility without delay to end the Israeli aggression."

It called on the Security Council and the Quartet to face up to the humanitarian results of the attack on the Palestinians, and said Israel must be forced to live up to its responsibilities as an occupying power.

Cairo also summoned the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China and France - to express its displeasure at the council's failure to issue a resolution calling for an end to the Israeli attacks.

The foreign ministry spokesman said the ambassadors had been told their countries needed to show they were taking the situation seriously by immediately issuing a resolution ordering Israel to end its attack.

The state news agency MENA earlier quoted Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit as saying in a statement that the Security Council's failure to call for an immediate ceasefire was seen by Israel as a "green light" to broaden its assault.

The United States thwarted an effort by Libya on Saturday to persuade the Security Council to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to Israel's ground operation in Gaza, and France condemned both the invasion and continued Hamas rocket attacks and urged both Israel and Hamas to accept ceasefire proposals.

Israel says its offensive in Gaza aims at halting the Hamas rocket attacks. The strip is home to 1.5 million Palestinians.