(CNSNews.com) – Arab League foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Monday to formulate a response to Israeli military operation in Gaza, but largely absent so far in the regional response to the crisis have been calls for Hamas to stop firing rockets from the territory into Israel.
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas wants the Arab ministers to adopt a draft resolution to present to the U.N. Security Council, PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement Sunday.
The P.A. is also looking for Arab support for an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, is calling for a commission of inquiry into the Israeli operation, and wants to ask the U.N. to place the Palestinian territories under “international protection.”
Ashrawi’s statement, which reported on decisions taken at meetings of the P.A. leadership and PLO’s executive committee, was silent on Hamas or its rocket attacks – despite the fact Israel says its operation is a direct response to the rocket fire.
“Operation Protective Edge” began on July 8, after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said more than 150 rockets fired from Gaza had landed in Israel over the previous month. Since July 8, a further 971 rockets had been launched as of early Monday, according to the IDF. Of those, 754 had landed in Israel and some 201 had been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. At least 27 had fallen short, landing inside the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government says 70 percent of the population live within range of the rockets. Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, has claimed responsibility for the majority of the launches.
The 1,800-word OIC statement also paid tribute to the Palestinians’ “resistance” but did not once mention Hamas or call on it to stop firing rockets from Gaza towards Israel.
The Saudi ambassador to the U.N., Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, said Saturday the kingdom was coordinating efforts among Arab, Muslim and developing nations to step up the pressure on Israel to end its military operation.
He said Saudi Arabia demands “an immediate halt to the daily killings of innocent people in Gaza” – but in comments reported by the Saudi daily Arab News also said nothing about the rockets fired by Hamas.
Israeli, PLO envoys make their caseThe U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs says 168 Palestinians have been killed over the past six days, and that most of them are civilians.
PLO representative to the U.S. Maen Rashid Areikat said Sunday Israel was committing war crimes by targeting civilian facilities.
Appearing on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” he said that even if Israel believed “militants” were using civilian buildings it was not acceptable for it to target those buildings. “According to Amnesty International, that’s a war crime.”
Areikat said the “root cause” of the violence was Israel’s military occupation, and defended Hamas.
“I think Hamas has been practical in its political, you know, positions in recent years,” he said. “I don’t think Hamas is seeking a confrontation with Israel.”
Interviewed separately on the same program, Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer challenged Areikat’s assertion about the root cause of the violence.
“Those talking points are nine years old,” he said, noting that Israel had withdrawn entirely from Gaza in 2005.
“We withdrew all our settlements from Gaza, we withdrew all our military forces from Gaza,” he said, “and since that time we’ve had 9,000 rockets fired at Israel. It’s unacceptable; we have to defend ourselves.”
(Two years after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas seized control of the territory after violent clashes with Abbas’ Fatah faction. The rival Palestinian organizations concluded a reconciliation agreement in May, on the basis of which Abbas early last month formed a Hamas-backed “unity” government.)
Dermer said Israel was doing all it could to avoid civilian casualties as it targets rocket launchers and terrorist infrastructure.
“There are many, many military operations that are called off because we see that there are civilians that are going to come into harm’s way, and that’s the difference between us and Hamas,” he said.
“Hamas is deliberately targeting our civilians. They want to kill as many civilians in Israel as possible. Thankfully, we have Iron Dome to protect our civilians, but as the prime minister said, they’re actually using their civilians as human shields.
“They place missile barriers next to mosques, schools, hospitals. It makes it very difficult for our military to fight this war in a surgical way, but we’ll do it and we’ll continue to uphold the highest standards.”