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German Press Review: Gaza on Fire

Friday's editorial pages in German papers are concerned primarily with the explosive situation in the Gaza Strip.

Berlin's Die Welt was particularly vivid in its description of the Israeli action in the Rafah refugee camp, writing that "an Israeli tank fires into the crowd," the paper writes, and "dead and wounded lie all around." The paper commented that while the Palestinians are losing people, they are winning the war of pictures, with the strategy that the worse the images are, the better. The paper wrote that Gaza is becoming a battle that feeds off itself and that the region needs help from the outside world, including the United States, the EU, and moderate Arabs.

"Meanwhile, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. has said that Israel stands at the gates to hell in the Gaza Strip," wrote Berlin's Neues Deutschland, but added that Palestinians there have been in hell for a long time already. Referring to the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. spoke of its "deepest" regret about the Palestinian victims, the paper called the words of the politicians "pure hypocrisy," adding that as Sharon's army moves in Gaza, the United States kills 41 people in Iraq, justifying it as a fight against terrorism. The paper wrote that "for Washington, hell is Iraq."

The Südwest Presse from Ulm praises the U.N. Security Council's decision, adding that Israel's response to it was just "a continuation of this ghastly offensive, with more dead civilians and destroyed houses."

The Leipziger Volkszeitung agreed that the decision of the U.N. Security Council may be the right one, but calls it nothing but a paper tiger. The paper wrote that the resolution will not likely change any of the reality on the ground.

The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf wrote that it was suspicious of Washington for having approved Sharon's planned evacuation from the Gaza Strip a month ago, and asked if the Americans already knew about Israel's intentions to launch the attacks during its pullout. But the question is ultimately an idle one, the paper continued, because the U.S. hid behind an abstention in the U.N. Security Council, instead of bringing up the issue.

The Märkische Oderzeitung from Frankfurt/Oder commented that one root of the Middle East problem is the idea of a Palestinian state geographically divided by Israel. Such a state is impossible to maintain, the paper wrote, if Israeli settlements remain in the West Bank "like a stake in the heart of the Palestinians." The paper commented that Washington gave Israel the green light to keep settlements there the last time Sharon was in Washington. The U.S. thereby greatly damaged its credibility in the Arab world, and the consequences are a radicalization of the conflict. The paper suggested that a possible solution to the conflict would be for Israel to put the U.N. resolutions of 1967 and 1973 into effect and pull out of Palestinian territory. Then, the paper concluded, fundamentalist Palestinian groups would lose their justification for terror, and Israel would have every right to defend itself.