Italy ready to facilitate dialogue


ROME (JTA) — Italy is ready to take "any useful action" that would help arrange a cease-fire in Gaza, its foreign minister said.

The country is also willing to serve as a "seat of dialogue" for the Arab League, the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.

In a note issued after Saturday’s launch of the Israeli ground offensive, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his government hoped that in such talks the parties could work out jointly a strategy "capable of definitively isolating extremism."

Frattini expressed "strong concern and apprehension" over civilian casualties in Gaza. Recalling that the Italian government had recently, "with a very broad consensus in Parliament," expressed support for Israel’s right to self-defense, he urged Israel to protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid.

"Once again it is clear how serious and how irresponsible was the violation of the cease-fire by Hamas," Frattini said.

Meanwhile, thousands took part in anti-Israel protests over the weekend in 15 Italian cities. The demonstrations were mainly peaceful, but protesters carried placards equating Israel with Nazism and, in Milan, demonstrators burned Israeli and American flags.

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