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Germany

German Muslims Call for Gaza Peace to End Civilian Suffering

The Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has inflamed passions around the world. In Germany, home to Europe's second-largest Muslim community, calls are growing to end the bloodshed and spare civilian lives.

Palestinian relatives of Hamas militant Sami Lobad, who was killed in an Israeli missile strike, during his funeral

Civilians have borne the brunt of Israel's offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip

Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups have long feuded over who holds the moral high-ground in this ongoing conflict, but consensus is widespread that non-combatants in Gaza are paying the price for the inability of Hamas and Israel to negotiate a peace to this most recent outbreak of violence.

In Germany, which has Western Europe's second-largest Muslim population after France, many in the Muslim community see Hamas as the instigator in this recent episode but are calling for an end to the Israeli offensive for the sake of Palestinian civilians.

Palestinian firemen at the destroyed house of Hamas senior leader Nizar Rayan after Israeli missiles strike in the refugee camp of Jabaliya, northern Gaza

Many civilians have been caught up in the Gaza war

Willy Ibrahimbegov, 24, a German Muslim whose family emigrated from Bosnia in 1989, said the Israeli offensive has been disproportionate when compared with Hamas rocket attacks.

"I'm angry because it's not fair what's going on," he said. "It's clear that Hamas started the war again, but you cannot compare ten rockets to what Israel is doing. And you cannot compare two Israeli lives with a thousand lives in Palestine. These are lives of innocent people," he said.

Ibrahimbegov warned that a rising death toll would further stoke Palestinian anger, pushing the people in the Gaza Strip into the arms of Hamas.

"More and more people will support Hamas in Palestine because most people there want revenge," he said.

Violence not the solution

Irawati Sulamet, 59, who was born and raised in the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, but has resided in Germany for the last 30 years, agreed that Israel was provoked into attacking Hamas targets, but that the offensive has now gone on too long.

"It is Hamas who is to blame for the recent hostilities," she said. "But the Israeli offensive has gone too far now," she said.

Most of those interviewed said that war was not the answer to the region's complex problems.

"Hamas and the Israelis must sit with international representatives and come to peace. It doesn't matter who fired first," said Burak Tatlioglu, 53, a Muslim who immigrated to Germany from Turkey in 1993 and now lives in Bonn.

Jewish groups: Hamas to blame for deaths

A pro-Israeli demonstration in Berlin

Europe-wide protests have been held to support Israel's right to strike Hamas

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has placed the blame for the recent conflict squarely on Hamas and asserted the right of the Jewish state to go on the offensive.

"The defense of (Israeli) citizens is not aggression and also not a violation of human rights. Israel has to protect the rights of and its obligation to its citizens," said president Charlotte Knobloch on the Council's Web site.

"Hamas carries the exclusive responsibility of civilian casualties on both sides," she said.

The European Jewish Congress also supported Israel's right to launch an assault in the Gaza Strip and organized pro-Israel demonstrations in Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich over the weekend, which attracted around 2,000 protestors.

Plea for civilians

Some Muslim organizations in Germany, such as the Turkish Islamic Union of the Institute of Religion (DITIB), have avoided playing the blame game and have called simply for an end to hostilities for the sake of civilians in Gaza.

"We are convinced of the fact that wars, hate and conflict do not bear a solution, but only human misery and pain. We appeal here to reason and the sense of responsibility of those involved," said Sadi Arslan, chairman of the DITIB.

Arslan said both Israel and Hamas had to return to the negotiating table to find a solution.

"A reciprocal renouncement of acts of violence, provocations and law breaking, as well as dialogue between both parties mediated by the world community, is the best way out of this intolerable situation in Gaza," he said.

Muslim group: Hamas, Israel both aggressors

A Berlin demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza

Pro-Gaza demonstrations have been held all over the world

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany said Israel's actions violated the principles of international law. But, he said, Hamas too had to end its rocket fire on Israeli settlements if a lasting peace was to be found.

"The bombardment of mosques, parliament buildings, schools and university mechanisms and many public places (by Israel) are a condition which cannot be accepted and which must be stopped immediately," said the council's spokesman Erol Puerlue.

But Puerlue also called for an end to Hamas rocket attacks on parts of southern Israel.

"The bombardment of Israeli settlements by Kassam rockets must end immediately. They only serve the continuation of the war and cannot be accepted," he said.

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