x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

You will pay for Gaza killings, Turkey's Erdogan tells Israel

The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, also said that the bloc should review its peace proposals to Tel Aviv in response to the conflict, which has escalated since Wednesday when Israel assassinated a top Hamas official.

A fire ball rises as the Israeli air force carries out a raid over Gaza City. AFP Photo / Majdi Fathi
A fire ball rises as the Israeli air force carries out a raid over Gaza City. AFP Photo / Majdi Fathi

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said yesterday that Israel would be held to account for the children among 42 people dead in three days of air strikes on Gaza.

The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, also said that the bloc should review its peace proposals to Tel Aviv in response to the conflict, which has escalated since Wednesday when Israel assassinated a top Hamas official.

Over the past 72 hours, Palestinian militants have fired more than 600 rockets into Israeli territory while Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

"Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza," Mr Erdogan said in a speech at Cairo University.

Mr Erdogan's visit comes amid a flurry of meetings to coordinate Arab and Turkey's response to Israel's conflict with Hamas, which controls Gaza. Both Egypt and Turkey have in the past mediated ceasefires and a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.

Mr Erdogan, who had earlier met the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, has blamed Israel for the latest round of fighting around the Gaza Strip. "It's a tactic of Israel's to point the finger at Hamas and attack Gaza," he said before leaving Ankara.

"Israel continues to make an international racket with its three dead," he said of three Israelis killed by a rocket fired from Gaza. "In fact it is Israel that violated the ceasefire."

Mr Elaraby told an Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo to discuss the conflict that member states should "reconsider all past Arab initiatives on the peace process and review their stance on the process as a whole".

"We pledge to the Palestinians in Gaza and everywhere to provide support to confront this aggression and break the siege," he said at the start of the meeting.

Speaking after Mr Elaraby, the Egyptian foreign minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr, too, said Arab governments had to "reconsider this strategy".

"There are proposals, and many efforts, without there being peace," he said, adding that in the future "there would be no land left to talk about a Palestinian state" because of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

The Qatar's prime minister also called for a review of the pan-Arab body's dealing with the Palestinian issue."Our meetings have become a waste of money and a waste of time," Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani said.

"We are meeting today and we will issue a statement. The statement will mean nothing," he said."The whole situation needs a clear and honest review ... we can't keep giving hope without delivering," Sheikh Hamad said.

In 2002 Arab states offered Israel diplomatic recognition in return for its withdrawal from all occupied territory and an equitable settlement of the Palestinian refugee question.

The proposal, dubbed the Arab Peace Initiative, has since defined Arab diplomacy towards Israel.Two Arab states - Egypt and Jordan - have signed peace treaties with Israel. Neither Mr Elaraby nor Mr Amr made reference to those agreements.

But a White House official said yesterday rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on Israel from Gaza were a "precipitating factor" for the conflict that has engulfed the two countries.

"We believe that the precipitating factor for the conflict was the rocket fire coming out of Gaza," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.

"We believe that Israel has a right to defend itself and they'll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use in that regard." Mr Rhodes also said the US president, Barack Obama, and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed that "de-escalation is preferred" provided that Hamas stops firing into Israel.

* With reporting by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse