Text size

Turkey's foreign minister said Monday his country favors a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas ensured by international monitors, adding that Turkey was willing to contribute to such a mission.

The statement came during a news conference with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who arrived in Turkey to discuss ways to establish a cease-fire.

"We think that any solution should be guaranteed by the international community and there is a need for a group of international monitors for any solution to be sustainable," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said. "Turkey would not shy away from such a mission if it were asked to contribute."

Al-Moallem said Turkey and Syria were working toward uniting their efforts to get a cease-fire and get border crossings open.

Turkey has criticized Israel for its ground offensive into Gaza and called on the United Nations to take steps to end the violence.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused Israel of committing "inhuman" acts in Gaza that would cause it to self-destruct.

In an interview with Al Jazeera television network, the Turkish prime minister said Israel hurt its relations with Turkey by attacking Gaza, and will be punished.

Erdogan telephoned the prime ministers of Russia, Britain and Italy requesting support to "mobilize the international community" for an urgent truce, a senior government official told The Associated Press. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to make statements to the press.

In the wake of his visit to the Middle East on Monday, Erdogan voiced his support of Hamas and said Turkey would act as a mediator between the Islamist organization and the United Nations Security Council.

He further stressed that Israel was responsible for violating the six-month cease-fire with Hamas by keeping the coastal strip blockaded.

Egyptian officials said Monday that Cairo was set to demand an immediate cease-fire from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as Israeli forces moved into their 10th day of a military offensive on the coastal territory.

Hamas plans to send a delegation to Egypt on Monday for the first diplomatic talks since the launch of a 10-day-old Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip, an official of the Islamist group has said.

Hamas official Ayman Taha said a Hamas delegation would head to Cairo "answering an Egyptian invitation to hold discussions." A senior Palestinian official said on Friday that Egypt had launched contacts with Hamas to achieve a truce.

The Hamas visit to Egypt would coincide with the expected visit there of French President Sarkozy, who has also launched a European-backed diplomatic push for a cease-fire. Taha did not say whether the delegation would include Hamas members from Gaza or from elsewhere.

Also Monday, exiled Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said the organization is open to international initiatives for a truce in Gaza but insisted any proposal must guarantee Israeli withdrawal and an end to the blockade on the besieged territory.

Abu Marzouk vowed that the Palestinian Islamic group would keep fighting an uneven war with Israel rather than return to the blockade, one of the grievances cited by Hamas when it chose not to renew a truce with Israel last month.

"Any initiative not based on ending the aggression, opening the border crossings and an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip has no chance of succeeding," Abu Marzouk told Reuters in an interview in Damascus.

"The defeat of the enemy and its failure to achieve its objectives must be reflected in the situation to come. I agree that the rules of the game must change, but in Hamas' favor," said Abu Marzouk, who lives in Syria along with other members of the group's exiled leadership.

Israel launched a ground offensive deep into the Gaza Strip on Saturday in an effort to stop rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, which have traumatized southern Israel. Over 500 Palestinians have been killed since the Gaza escalation began, at least a quarter of them civilians, a UN agency said.

The UN chief on Monday urged the divided Security Council to work toward a speedy end to the escalating crisis in Gaza and planned to meet Monday with Arab ministers flying to New York to press for an immediate halt to the violence.

Late Saturday, the United States blocked approval of a Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and expressing serious concern at the escalation of violence after Israeli tanks and artillery began a ground assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, council diplomats said.

In a statement released Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "Given the crucial juncture at which we have arrived in the search for a cease-fire, I appeal to all members of the international community to display the unity and commitment required to bring this escalating crisis to an end."

On Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel's ground operation as "brutal aggression."