Abbas: Israel responsible for 'waterfall of blood' if it rejects Gaza truce
Palestinian president calls for international observers to monitor trucel Egypt rules out foreign troops on its soil.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said all parties would be responsible for continued fighting in Gaza if they did not accept an Egypt-brokered truce, but he singled out Israel to say that it would be responsible for a "waterfall of blood" if they didn't accept the deal.
Abbas was in Cairo on Saturday for talks with Egyptian officials on a truce to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip, now in its 15th day. In a news conference Saturday in Cairo after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mahmoud Abbas also stressed that there was no time to waste in ending the bloodshed in Gaza, home to 1.4 million people.
"If any party does not accept it [the truce], regrettably it will be the one bearing the responsibility, and if Israel doesn't want to accept, it will take the responsibility of perpetuating a waterfall of blood," Abbas said.
Abbas called for international troops to supervise a cease-fire in Gaza and protect the Palestinians, a move rejected by the militant Hamas group that controls the strip.
Israel also wants international monitors to ensure compliance with any deal, but Egypt has refused to base them on its soil.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit appeared to back Abbas's position on troops but made it clear that any forces involved in monitoring the agreement would have to be on Palestinian soil, rather than Egyptian territory. He said Egypt is only ready to accept technical and training assistance, something the U.S. has already provided and the Germans offered Saturday.
"I assure you there will not be any kind of international troops in Egyptian Sinai," said Aboul Gheit.
International troops would, in all likelihood, be more comfortable monitoring the border and any cease-fire from Egyptian territory rather than inside Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Hamas and other Syria-based Palestinian militant groups on Saturday rejected deploying international observers or troops in Gaza on the grounds that they would infringe on their sovereignty and interfere with the resistance to Israel.
But a Hamas delegate in Cairo with colleagues from Gaza and Syria for talks with Egyptian officials on a truce said the group was not rejecting the initiative outright.
"If that was so, Hamas would not send delegates from inside [Gaza] and outside [Syria] to talk with the brothers in Egypt," Ayman Taha told Al-Arabiya Television. "The initiative has positive constructive points, though there are other points that need more discussions."
The status of Gaza's borders with Egypt and Israel has also been a sticking point in the cease-fire discussions. Hamas has said it won't accept any deal that does not include the full opening of Gaza's border crossings and a role for Hamas in monitoring the borders.
Israel and Egypt have kept the borders sealed since Hamas militants forcibly seized control of the territory 18 months ago. Egypt said it would only accept Abbas, along with the European monitors, to be in control of the borders.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians said they were urging Israel to accept an immediate cease-fire proposal, followed by a longer-term cease-fire and negotiations on the underlying problems.
"We can't say to anybody cease the fire and the fire will cease," said Aboul Gheit, listing the many unresolved factors, including Israel's attacks and Hamas' rockets. "These are matters that need discussions."
"What is stopping [Israel] is the false perception that they can use military measures to achieve political objectives. They will not achieve the destruction of Hamas," he added.
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also met Saturday with Mubarak, warned conditions in Gaza are deteriorating.
"We now need a working plan for a lasting cease-fire," Steinmeier said. "We need to work persistently to pave the way for an end to the fighting."
Palestinian FM slams Israel, Hamas for rejecting UN truce
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Israel and Hamas responded to the Security Council's call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza with "total disrespect" and he urged the UN's most powerful body to enforce its demand.
"We cannot really wait until Israel will complete its mission while it really continues killing Palestinians, not on a daily basis but on an hourly basis," Malki told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.
If the Security Council doesn't react in the next 48 hours, he said, Arab foreign ministers who came to the Security Council to help draft the resolution "will have a reaction." He did not elaborate.
Hopes dimmed that the resolution approved Thursday would end the worst fighting in decades in Gaza after Israel rejected it as "not practical" and Hamas dismissed it, complaining that it had not been consulted.
"Both have responded to the resolution in the same way, in total disrespect," Malki said.
He said the U.S., Britain and France worked hard to ensure that the resolution did not give Hamas, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state, equal status with Israel, a sovereign nation.
"Israel, by its behavior and its attitude, really has aligned itself to the same level of Hamas," Malki said.
Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27, saying it wanted to end eight years of rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel by Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
The air and ground offensive in Gaza has killed around 780 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials.
With civilian casualties mounting and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza increasingly desperate for food, water, fuel and medical assistance, international pressure for a cease-fire has intensified.
But Malki said he had seen no efforts since the resolution was approved to implement it.
The Security Council should react by "enforcing the resolution, and if Israel refuses, then they have really to start thinking about sanctions," he said.
The resolution "calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." While the "call" is tantamount to a demand on the parties, Israel's troops won't be required to pull out until there is a "durable" cease-fire.
The resolution was not drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which is militarily enforceable, but Malki said all UN member states should abide by such a resolution.
The United States was the only member of the council to abstain on the resolution, which surprised Malki because "we were told the Americans were going to vote for it."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. supported the resolution but abstained because it wanted to give time to an Egyptian-French initiative aimed at achieving a temporary cease-fire and then a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas.
Malki said there has been no announcement of any movement on the Egyptian initiative, which Rice strongly endorsed and which he said is included in the resolution.
"I do expect that the United States should really take a more clear stand and announce that it's time right now to try really to protect the spirit of the resolution and to find ways how to make sure that that resolution is really respected and implemented by all parties," he said.
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