by Samer al-Atrush
CAIRO (AFP) – Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip was roundly condemned across the Middle East on Sunday, with Egypt also accusing the UN Security Council of failing to act quickly to resolve the crisis.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Israel’s incursion into the impoverished territory on Saturday night came in “brazen defiance” of international calls to end the fighting.
“The Security Council‘s silence and its failure to take a decision to stop Israel’s aggression since it began was interpreted by Israel as a green light,” he said in a statement as Israeli forces rumbled into Gaza.
A Jordanian government spokesman said the invasion “will have dangerous repercussions and negative effects on the region’s security and stability” and called for an immediate ceasefire, state-news agency Petra reported.
Foreign Minister Salah Bashir met ambassadors from the UN Security Council five permanent members and urged speedy “international action to end these attacks.”
His statement came after Arab League chief Amr Mussa accused the UN Security Council of “ignoring” the crisis in Gaza.
Israel sent tanks and infantry into the impoverished Palestinian enclave on Saturday night after eight days of air strikes and naval bombardment killed more than 485 Palestinians. Rockets fired by Gaza militants have killed four Israelis.
The Security Council announced after the ground operations began that it would hold a special meeting on Gaza. But after four hours of consultation, its members failed to agree on a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.
The US has said it would not support a ceasefire that would return the “status quo” in Gaza, which the Islamist movement Hamas violently took over in 2007.
An Arab diplomat familiar with the talks at the Security Council blamed the US for blocking a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
“It’s clearly the Americans, it doesn’t require genius,” he said, adding that the US had blocked a resolution because “the Israelis still need some time to finish their operations.”
Washington said it would reject a Libyan proposal for a resolution calling on both sides to abide by a ceasefire because it did not explicitly mention Hamas rocket attacks.
Turkey, one of Israel’s few Muslim allies, urged the UN to take the necessary steps to bring the situation under control and condemned the “unacceptable” offensive.
“We condemn and find it unacceptable that Israel has begun a ground operation (in Gaza) in spite of the warnings and reactions from the international community,” said a foreign ministry statement.
“It is obvious that escalating the tension will not benefit anyone.”
Hamas fired dozens of rockets into Israel after an Egyptian-mediated six-month truce expired on December 19. The militant group says it will not support a ceasefire as long as Israel continues to blockade the coastal strip.
Hamas’ regional ally Iran said in response to Israel’s ground operations that Gaza would become a “cemetery” for Israel.
Gulf newspapers slammed Washington’s “protection of Israel” at the UN which has “prevented any international dissuasive (action) and the possibility of imposing a ceasefire,” wrote the Emirati Al-Bayan daily.
Saudi’s Al-Riyadh attacked US President George W. Bush “who started his first presidential mandate with wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and ends his (White House) days welcoming the spilling of Palestinian blood.”
The Israeli press backed the ground offensive and its “limited” objectives, but looked to diplomatic ways of ending the conflict at the appropriate time.
“This is not a ‘ground operation’ but a real war, a war to defend our homes and lives,” wrote the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot.