European Press Review: Middle East Peace Suffers New Setback | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 29.12.2008
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European Press Review: Middle East Peace Suffers New Setback

European newspapers criticized both Hamas and Israel for the eruption of violence which has left more than 300 dead. Editorial writers were skeptical that the fighting would bring peace to the Middle East.

A Palestinian family reacts as they rush past a burning building after an Israeli missile strike

Palestinians are caught in the middle

Some newspapers focused on the futility of Israel's attacks. Others focused on the backlash that will likely come from neighboring countries. But there was general agreement that the recent attacks will do nothing to further peace in the Middle East.

The Handelsblatt from the western German city of Dusseldorf saw the cynicism of the attacks.

"There have been years of provocation," the newspaper wrote. "Even after Israel finally removed the last settlers and all soldiers from the Gaza Strip, the radical Islamist Hamas did not keep quiet. Hamas had only one goal: to defeat Israel. And it is not shrinking away from using Palestinians in Gaza as hostages. It does not get any more cynical."

Israeli soldiers look at the northern Gaza Strip from the Israeli side in Kibbutz Niram

Will Israel come out looking like the bad guys?

Several British newspapers criticized Israel not only for the attacks but as strategic error that plays into the hands of Islamist militants.

The Financial Times said the air strikes were "disproportionate" and "trying to crush Hamas from the air was self-defeating."

"It further enrages Arab and Muslim opinion against Israel and its US allies, and strengthens the appeal of Islamist radicals," wrote the business daily. "And just as Hezbollah was aggrandized by Israel's misfired 34-days war on Lebanon in 2006, so Hamas now stands to gain if it can hold its ground."

Britain's center-left Guardian shared a similar view:

"There has been no diminution of support for Hamas in Gaza, as a result of Israel's policy of blockading it, and support for Hamas may well rise as a result of these air strikes," it wrote.

Turks shout slogans as they protest against Israel's attacks against the Gaza Strip

The fighting has provoked anger in the Muslim world

Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph placed most of the blame on Hamas for abandoning an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and accused the group of firing rockets in the hope of provoking a furious reaction.

"Hamas was not expecting retribution on this scale, but we can be sure that it will extract the maximum possible propaganda advantage from the slaughter," it wrote. "Hamas is not a reasonable political movement. It cannot thrive without crisis; the blood of innocents is its own lifeblood."

The French newspaper La Croix was also critical of Hamas.

"The unilateral rupture by Hamas of the ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist movement is without doubt more serious and will have more serious consequences," wrote the Catholic daily.

Smoke rises from Israeli missile strikes in the northern Gaza Strip

Hamas was criticized for breaking a ceasefire

The daily Le Figaro said Hamas had taken a "hard line policy against all Western influence in the region" and said finding a way back to the path of peace "rests in large part on the actions to come from Barack Obama."

The Salzburger Nachrichten doubted that Israel's military action would provide some type of resolution to the conflict in the Middle East. Israel wants to "radically change the reality in southern Israel," the newspaper wrote.

"But it remains questionable whether the massive military strike can accomplish this," the newspaper said. "Israel should not launch a war only against extremists. It also needs to make peace with moderates."

Luxembourg's Wort newspaper noted that the radical Islamist Hamas threatens the survival of both Israel and other moderate regimes in the region. The newspaper saw the swift attacks as sending a signal to Iran about Israel's strength.

"While both movements are politically and logistically supported by Teheran, Israel's action on Sabbath was a clear signal to Iran. In less than three minutes, 200 Hamas installations had been damaged. According to medical sources, a maximum of 15 civilians were killed. That is 15 too many, but the military operation was aimed in particular at Teheran in increasing the respect for the logistics and military capabilities of the Israeli air force."

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