RI deplores attacks on Gaza
Bagus BT Saragih and Haeril Halim
The Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government and presumed president-elect Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo have condemned Israel's military invasion of Gaza, which has claimed the lives of innocent Palestinians, and have the urged international community to pressure Israel to stop the violence on Palestinian soil.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said in a statement on Wednesday that the attacks on Palestinian soil had created new obstacles for the peace process between Israel and Palestine.
'Israel's move needs to be opposed. Military aggression has worsened the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank . The siege is actually 'collective punishment' against Palestinians,' the minister added.
'The UN Security Council and international community need to press Israel to immediately cease its violent actions against civilians in Palestine's Gaza,' Marty said.,
Meanwhile, Jokowi, who according to several quick counts came out victorious in Wednesday's presidential election, strongly condemned Israel's recent military attacks against powerless Palestine in his first post-election press conference.
'Military attacks by Israel against the Gaza Strip, which have resulted in the death of dozens of civilians, are clearly violations of human rights,' said Jokowi, whose campaign promises included support for Palestine's independence.
Jokowi also urged the United Nations to take firm action as soon as possible to prevent any more civilian casualties in Israel's aggressive military operations in Palestine, whose land has been occupied by Israel for more than seven decades.
'I will soon meet with the Palestinian ambassador to Indonesia to deliver my support. I also call on Indonesians to make donations to help ease the suffering of Palestinians,' Jokowi added.
Meanwhile, Israel is mobilizing 20,000 soldiers for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, as militants there extended their rocket barrage and the Palestinian death toll from Israeli strikes topped 80.
'Where is this leading, is it leading to a ground force incursion? I cannot confirm that,' Israel army spokesman Lt-Col Peter Lerner said on Thursday, as quoted by Bloomberg.
'I can confirm we are making all the necessary preparations to be ready for that,' said Lerner.
A ground invasion would exact a heavier toll on the Hamas movement that controls Gaza and on Palestinian civilians as well. It would also increase international pressure on Israel to end its offensive, begun after rocket fire from Gaza escalated a month ago.
The United Nations Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting on the violence today amid foreign attempts to stop it.
The Israeli government has authorized the call-up of as many as 40,000 troops. Israel launched strikes against more than 100 targets today, while militants fired more than 50 rockets, including at least one intercepted over Tel Aviv.
Eighty-one Gazans have been killed, about two-thirds of them civilians, emergency medical services chief Ashraf al-Qedra said by phone. At least 10 were children, the United Nations Relief Works Agency said in an emailed statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday the military would step up its assault on Hamas, which his government holds responsible for all rocket fire from Gaza.
Given the violence in Gaza and the failure of US-led peace talks in April, Palestinian leaders are considering resuming efforts to gain further international recognition of a state of Palestine at the UN and other organizations, said Maen Rashid Areikat, the chief representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the US.
'In the absence of a political process and the presence of all this Israeli aggression and arrogance of power, the Palestinian leadership will explore whatever can be used to provide protection for the Palestinian people,' Areikat told reporters in Washington.
Palestinian rocket targets in Israel have expanded to include Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and as far north as Zichron Yaacov, 141 kilometers from Gaza.
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