Arab League condemns Israeli air strikes on Gaza

Head of regional body accuses Israel of stoking tensions and provoking violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the attacks in Gaza were a 'miserable show of force at the expense of children's blood' [File: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters]

The head of the Arab League has condemned deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip as “indiscriminate and irresponsible” and said Israel had provoked an earlier increase in violence by its actions in Jerusalem.

The violence began after Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Monday for a third consecutive day, firing rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at Palestinian worshippers inside Islam’s third holiest site in the final days of the holy month of Ramadan.

Responding to the crackdown, Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza strip, issued an ultimatum, saying Israel had until 6pm (15:00 GMT) to withdraw its forces from Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Shortly after the deadline expired, Hamas fired several rockets into Israel. Israel responded by launching air raids at the besieged territory, killing 28 people, including 10 children.

“Israeli violations in Jerusalem, and the government’s tolerance of Jewish extremists hostile to Palestinians and Arabs, is what led to the ignition of the situation in this dangerous way,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.

The attacks in Gaza were a “miserable show of force at the expense of children’s blood”, he said, adding that “Israeli provocations” were an affront to Muslims on the eve of the Eid holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Smoke billows from Israeli air strikes in Gaza City [Anas Baba/AFP]

Arab League foreign ministers held a virtual emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.

The meeting would reaffirm the centrality of the Palestinian issue for Arab states and solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem, a statement said.

In light of events in Jerusalem, Egypt declared its “total rejection and condemnation of these oppressive Israeli practices,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the League.

Shoukry said Cairo reached out to Israel in an attempt to calm tensions but was met with indifference.

“In the last few days, Egypt extensively reached out to Israel and other concerned countries urging them to exert all possible efforts to prevent the deterioration of the situation in Jerusalem,” said Shoukry. “But we did not get the necessary response.”

Separately, the head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which held an emergency meeting in Jeddah, “praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people stationed in the occupied city of Jerusalem and their response to the Israeli attacks on the holy sites”, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Turkey also condemned the Israeli air strikes.

“The Israeli government must finally understand that it will not be able to suppress the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights and demands by using indiscriminate and disproportionate power,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed. Israel disputed that account, saying it had killed at least 20 Hamas fighters and that a third of the hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas had fallen short, causing Palestinian civilian casualties.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies