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SLUG: 2-292328 Israel / Arab React (L)








INTRO: The Arab League has condemned Israel's deadly missile strike in Gaza City and called for United Nations Security Council intervention. V-O-A Correspondent Laurie Kassman in Cairo reports Egyptian and Saudi officials also condemned the operation and say the action will only bring Israel more trouble.

TEXT: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher calls the Israeli air strike a war crime in the full sense of the word, targeting innocent civilians.

Mr. Maher angrily accused Israel of trying to, in his words, blow up a Hamas proposal that, he said, would strip Israel of its pretext for occupying Palestinian territories.

Israel's Gaza operation comes amid reports the Islamic militant group was ready to promise an end to attacks against Israelis that might harm civilians in return for Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank.

Hamas has claimed responsibility for most of the deadly suicide bombings in Israel. (The group is on the U-S State Department's list of terrorist organizations.)

Mr. Maher spoke with reporters after meetings with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Saudi diplomat also condemned the attack, calling it a horrible act with no moral, ethical, or military justification.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa issued a statement demanding the U-N Security Council urgently get involved. The statement says the Arab world and the international community demand protection for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

The Israeli military operation comes in the wake of renewed Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and meetings in New York and Washington aimed at reviving the stagnant peace process. After their talks with President Bush, the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia expressed support for U-S proposals to help ease the Palestinians' humanitarian crisis and also respond to Israel's security concerns.

Arab ministers now predict another wave of violence, which would stall the latest efforts to ease tensions. (Signed)


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