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World Reacts to Israeli Strikes in Gaza

As the casualty rate continues to rise in the wake of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, the world has reacted. Most countries are calling for restraint and urging negotiations.

Palestinians carry the body of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli missile strike

Palestinians carry the body of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli missile strike

French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Israel of using disproportionate violence in its attacks on the Gaza Strip Saturday.

The bombardment must stop immediately, Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said in Paris.

Sarkozy also condemned the launching of rockets by Palestinian militants on Israel from the Gaza Strip and called for an end to the "unjustifiable provocation" that had led to the current situation.

There was no military solution in the Gaza Strip, he said.

The EU is part of the so-called "Quartet" seeking to negotiate peace in the Middle East, with the United States, the United Nations and Russia. The statement urged the "re-opening of all checkpoints and the immediate resumption of fuel and humanitarian aid deliveries."

Casualties climbing

Smoke rises from Israeli missile strikes in the northern Gaza Strip

Smoke rises from Israeli missile strikes in the northern Gaza Strip

Airstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) directed at militants from the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 195 Palestinians, health officials in Gaza said.

More than 350 people have been injured in the strikes, security and medical officials said.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Force said: "The IDF will continue its operations against terror in accordance with constant status assessments by the IDF Chief of General Staff. This operation will be continued, expanded and intensified as much as required."

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Saudi King Abdullah on Saturday called for an immediate halt to the Israeli raids, a Palestinian diplomatic source told the AFP news agency.

"President Abbas and the Saudi sovereign discussed developments in the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and agreed to denounce it forcefully and urge an immediate halt to it," the source told AFP by telephone from Rawdat Kharim south of Riyadh after the two leaders met.

Moscow and Washington

Israeli tank

Israel says the operation will continue and be expanded as needed

Moscow added its voice Saturday to calls for an immediate end to Middle East violence.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko called on Israel to end its "combat activities which have already led to great loss and suffering among the peaceful Palestinian population."

At the same time he called on the Hamas organization to stop its rocket attacks against Israeli territory.

Nesterenko stressed that the problems of the Middle East had to be solved at the negotiating table. An international conference is due to go ahead in Moscow in the New Year.

The United States on Saturday urged restraint from Israel in its military operations in the Gaza Strip, but simultaneously offered sharp criticism of Hamas.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, according to CNN, said Israel needs to avoid civilian deaths in its operations against Hamas. But, in the same statement, Johndroe also lambasted Hamas for its attacks on Israel and its support for terrorism.

Arab World

An injured man is assisted as others are unloaded from vehicles outside a hospital

An injured man is assisted as others are unloaded from vehicles outside a hospital

Egypt condemned Israel's air raids as "murder" and opened its Rafah border crossing with the territory to allow the wounded through for treatment.

"We call for an immediate end to Israeli military operations. We cannot allow these attacks to continue. We cannot permit the murder of Palestinians," Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said on state television.

Egypt, one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace deal with Israel, summoned ambassador Shalom Cohen to call for an end to the bombardment by dozens of Israeli aircraft.

In Amman, the royal palace said King Abdullah of Jordan had been in touch with Palestinian President Abbas and with Mubarak to "launch an Arab and international initiative aimed at ending the Israeli aggression."

The king urged a "return to negotiations which are the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," it said in a statement.

Islamic Jihad encouraged a different tactic. "All fighters are ordered to respond to the Israeli slaughter," it said in a statement.

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