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Ambassador in plea to avert bloodbath

PALESTINE'S envoy to Bahrain has called on the Arab League and the UN to step in to end the Israeli assault on Gaza - which saw more than 250 air strikes since it was launched on Wednesday.

Ambassador Taha Mohammed Abdel Kader claimed the onslaught by Israeli forces, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defence, had been timed to draw attention away from Palestine's efforts to be recognised as a country at the UN on November 29.

He also described it as an attempt by the current Israeli leaders to secure victory "with Palestinian blood" at forthcoming general elections - and urged Palestinians in Bahrain to contact the embassy if they were concerned about their loved ones in Gaza.

The Israeli assault on the Palestinian territory is its toughest in nearly four years and follows the targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari.

At least 16 Palestinians - including women and children - have died in the air strikes, which injured around 150, and at least three Israelis are said to have been killed by rockets fired at southern Israel.

Hamas announced a state of emergency in Gaza, evacuating all its security buildings and deploying its troops away from their locations.

"Israel needs no justification to attack Gaza, the West Bank or the Palestinian (refugee) camps in Lebanon," Mr Abdel Kader told the GDN yesterday.

"They were practising these strategies for a long time.

"Our political analysis of this escalation in Gaza, at this particular moment, is that it's due to the Palestinian leadership going to the UN to ask for observer state status for Palestine."

He said Palestine was now seeking urgent help from the Arab League and the UN Security Council.

"The Palestinian leadership is calling on the Arab League and UN Security Council for urgent meetings to stop the Israeli aggression in Gaza," he said.

"We know this strategy.

"Israel is doing this to confuse and distract the Palestinian leadership, the world and the Arab community so they will be busy focusing on this aggression - rather than voting for Palestine to get the observer state status in the UN.

"It is a reaction to the Palestinian leadership sending envoys all over the world to make sure that the majority of countries vote on our behalf to get observer state status."

He claimed the upcoming Israeli election was another motivation for the Gaza assault.

"The Israeli settler government coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman want to win the upcoming Israeli election," said Mr Abdel Kader.

"The election is in January, which is just around the corner, and they want to win it with Palestinian blood. The Israeli community will vote for them in times of conflict.

"We hope the international community will support the victims and not the oppressors.

"We also wish and hope that all the countries in the world will support us at the UN."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian community leader in Bahrain, Rami Rashid, said it was no coincidence that the assault started one day after Palestine submitted its application for observer state status to the UN.

If the UN General Assembly supports the application, it would essentially give Palestine nation status.

"The Gaza Strip is only 360 square kilometres, which is about half the size of Bahrain, and living there are 1.5 million people," said Mr Rashid.

"It is the most condensed area, so when Israeli fighters bomb it there will be more collateral damage.

"The Israelis are surrounding the whole of Gaza Strip to control all the checkpoints, and all the food and commodities come through the Israeli borders."

He said the Israeli onslaught coincided with the US reducing aid for Palestine in light of its application for UN recognition.

"When the Palestinian President called President Obama to congratulate him on winning the election, the US President didn't even acknowledge his comment," added Mr Rashid.

"He said the US was against the move to join the UN.

"The US has partially stopped aid and is threatening to cut it off completely.

"They are also asking the Arab and European countries to avoid financial help - not to mention that the Israelis have withheld Palestinian Customs' money.

"Around 160,000 Palestinian employees have not been paid in over two months between the West Bank and Gaza."

Bahraini MP Mohammed Al Ammadi condemned the Israeli action, but said he remained pessimistic about the international response.

"No-one has taken any serious action because Israel is America's baby, so even if they are wrong no one will help," he said.

"The Israelis have been raping the Palestinians and their land since they settled and we all know the aim of this state, which is to get rid of them all (the Palestinians).

"But I have been watching the news coverage lately and rarely come across Palestinian children crying, they are getting stronger.

"While the Israelis are leaving their homes in panic (over rocket fire), the Palestinians are standing strong in their homeland."

ahmed@gdn.com.bh



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