Cairo urges Israeli troop pullback

Egypt has called for a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza to positions held before the start of the current Palestinian intifada in 2000.

    Abu al-Ghait (L) says Israeli presence in Gaza is a provocation

    "The aim Egypt is working for is to restore confidence and calm so that the Palestinian people in all of the Gaza Strip can take part in a legitimate election process under international
    supervision," Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Ghait said on Egyptian radio on Monday. 

    "That can be achieved only by complete Israeli withdrawal from the areas Israeli forces have occupied since 28 September 2000 (the eve of the intifada)," he added. 

    The minister said the Israeli military presence in Gaza was a "provocation" perpetuating a cycle of violence. 

    Bait Hanun invasion

    On Sunday, Israeli tanks moved into the northern Gaza Strip and Israel said they were trying to stop cross-border rocket attacks which front-running Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmud Abbas said achieved nothing.

    The thrust into the town of Bait Hanun began just hours after Israeli forces ended a three-day-long incursion into the Khan Yunus refugee camp in southern Gaza. 

    Abu al-Ghait said there was no comparison between what Israel was doing and what a small group of Palestinians was doing as a result of what he said was provocations by Israeli forces. 

    "So the aim is to achieve a ceasefire and a disengagement of forces and an [Israeli] withdrawal, to give a chance for the election of the Palestinian president and a move towards negotiations," he added.  

    Cameraman wounded

    Meanwhile, a Palestinian cameraman working for a private Israeli channel was wounded on Sunday by Israeli fire while he was covering the incursion in Bait Hanun.

    The cameraman was covering an
    Israeli army incursion

    Majdi al-Arabid, 40, was wounded in the stomach by Israeli soldiers "who opened fire without any warning", a journalist from the channel 10 who witnessed the events told public radio. 

    "The Israeli unit knew perfectly well that we were journalists and that did not stop them from shooting at a time when the area was calm," said Schlomi Eldar. 

    Critical condition

    The Israeli army authorised his transfer to the Soroka hospital in Beersheva for emergency treatment. Military radio confirmed he had been wounded by fire from troops and said his condition was critical. 

    An Israeli military source said the soldiers "did not see a single journalist in the area" and only returned fire against Palestinians who were firing on them. 

    However, the source added that this was only a preliminary assessment and Israeli command was looking into the

    British journalist James Muller was killed in May 2003 by Israeli fire in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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