Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa Urging Muslims to Avenge Gaza Raids

Iran's Supreme Leader also orders all Muslims to defend Palestinians against Israeli raids in Gaza.

A Saudi Web site on Sunday reported that a popular cleric has issued a fatwa urging Muslims to target Israeli interests everywhere, to avenge the attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The site, Rasid, posts news about Saudi Arabia's Shiite community and on Sunday said that Sheik Awadh al-Garni has issued a religious edict urging Muslims to strike anything that has a link to Israel, calling it a legitimate target for Muslims everywhere.

Al-Garni, whose is popular in the kingdom, is not a member of the official religious establishment.

Fatwas are not legally binding, and it is up to the individual Muslim to follow them.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday also issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel's attacks on Gaza, state television said.

"All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible. Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense is considered a martyr," state television quoted Khamenei as saying in a statement.

Israel launched an unprecedented assault on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 280 people and sparking protests and condemnations throughout the Arab world.

Many of Israel's Western allies urged restraint, though the U.S. blamed Hamas for the fighting.

In his statement on Sunday, Khamenei also criticized some Arab governments for their "encouraging silence" towards the Israel's raids on Gaza.

Hamas leaders go into hiding

Meanwhile, Hamas' political leaders in the Gaza Strip have gone into hiding in the wake of Israel's operation on the coastal territory, fearing that they will once again be targeted in the attacks.

In Damascus, Syria, Hamas' top leader, Khaled Meshal, called on Palestinians to rekindle their fight against Israel and renew suicide bombings against Israeli targets. "This is the time for a third Intifada," he said.

In a speech broadcast on local Gaza television, Hamas' prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, declared his movement would not be cowed. "We are stronger, and more determined, and have more will, and we will hold onto our rights even more than before," Haniyeh said.

Abu Ubeida, spokesman for the organization's military wing, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades vowed harsh retaliation: "The Israeli occupation needs to know that it has cast itself into the fire," he said.

Abbas says attacks could have been avoided

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday the Islamist group Hamas could have avoided the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

"We talked to them and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened," he said in Cairo.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Sunday that Hamas was not allowing Palestinians wounded in Israel's attacks on Gaza to cross into Egypt for treatment.

"We are waiting for the wounded Palestinians to cross. They are not being allowed to cross," he told reporters. Asked who was to blame, he said: "Ask the party in control on the ground in Gaza."

Gheit said that said that Cairo, which has mediated between Hamas and Israel and between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, summoned the Israeli ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Sunday for the second day in a row to complain about Israeli military operations.

"We object to this and we demand a stop and that the Israeli army does not carry out a new invasion," he said.

The Egyptian minister said a cease-fire would be the aim of a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Wednesday.

Several Arab leaders have also proposed an Arab summit to respond to the attacks on Gaza but Aboul Gheit suggested that a summit could be some way off.

"Priority is the Arab measures at the level of foreign ministers ... then we can look at a later phase, but we don't imagine moving without proper preparation for such a summit. First we have to look at the ceasefire measures," he said.

The TV images of dead and wounded Gazans has inflamed Arab public opinion, and protests erupted in Arab Israeli villages, the West Bank and elsewhere in the Arab world.

The campaign embarrassed moderate Arab regimes that have encouraged Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and weakened Hamas' rival, Abbas, who has ruled only the West Bank since Hamas violently seized control of Gaza in June 2007.

Abbas condemned the attacks on Saturday, but fearing violence could spiral out of control, his forces also broke up protests in the West Bank.

The offensive risked opening new fronts, including unrest that could destabilize the West Bank and ignite possible rocket attacks by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas on northern Israel.