World leaders call for halt to airstrikes


(JTA) — Governments around the world called on Israel to halt its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the European Union called for an immediate halt to Israeli bombing in Gaza and to Hamas rocket fire on Israel.

Sarkozy "firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations that led to this situation, as well as the disproportionate use of force," a government statement published Saturday said. Sarkozy "deplores the significant civilian losses" and "demands the immediate stop to rocket fire on Israel, as well as the Israeli bombings on Gaza," it said.

An E.U. statement called for a halt to violence on both sides and encouraged neighboring countries, such as Egypt, to help broker a peace deal. "There is no military solution in Gaza," read the statement.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for "an urgent cease-fire and immediate halt to all violence." On Sunday, he said that he and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were "following developments in Gaza with grave concern. The rise in rocket attacks on Israel since Dec. 19, and yesterday’s massive loss of life, make this a dangerous moment which should be of concern to the whole of the international community."

Miliband also called on Israel to "abide by its humanitarian obligations. The U.K. supports the prompt and sufficient delivery of food, fuel and medicine into the Gaza Strip."

Meanwhile, the Vatican urged Israelis and Palestinians to seek a peaceful way to settle their conflict. The Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket attacks will deal "a very heavy blow" to Hamas, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio on Saturday. But, he added, there could be many innocent victims and "hatred will grow further and the hopes for peace will recede."

Hamas, Lombardi said, is a "prisoner of the logic of hatred" and Israel is a prisoner of "the logic in the faith in force as the best response to hatred." Both sides, he said, must "continue to seek a different way out, even if it seems impossible."

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