US, Annan criticize Israeli raid on Gaza
The United States urged the Israeli military on Thursday to exercise restraint after 13 Palestinians were killed, including a two-year-old toddler in a raid on the Shajayia neighborhood of Gaza City.
"We deeply regret the civilian casualties that occurred today in Gaza," State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said.
While recognizing Israel's "right to self-defense" in response to suicide bombings, Prokopowicz said: "We urge the Israeli government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. This includes exercising restraint in undertaking operations in civilian areas."
"These events underscore the need for the two sides to begin working with each other directly to take steps on the ground to end the violence," Prokopowicz said.
The White House said Bush discussed the road map on Thursday with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
"The president will, as he said yesterday, dedicate time and energy to developing the environment for peace to take root between the Israelis and the Palestinians," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
In addition to prodding Israel, the State Department called on the Palestinians "to do their part against those who continue to commit acts of terrorism like we saw in Tel Aviv ... and work to restore active security contacts to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terror and violence. Attacks such as these will not deter us from working towards implementation of the road map."
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday slammed Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip as acting against international efforts to implement the road map.
Annan said the actions "contradicted the international community's efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, following the presentation of the road map to the parties."
The UN chief said he was "deeply disturbed" by the Israeli raids, and that "such actions, including reported house demolitions, are contrary to international humanitarian law."
Annan said he remains convinced that there is no military solution to the conflict, urging both sides to set up effective cooperation to ensure security for both Israelis and Palestinians. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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