WASHINGTON - The government in Cairo formally expressed its protest of the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip before the Israeli ambassador to Egypt. In the same breath, however, it made clear which party it holds responsible for the deterioration of the situation.
Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said in a Cairo press conference that Egypt had long since warned Israel would respond in this manner, and added that those who did not heed the warning "should bear the responsibility."
He noted that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Hamas as well. Earlier in the day Aboul Gheit said that Egypt had predicted this would be the play of events, "because Hamas did not stop firing rockets into Israel."
An official at the Egyptian foreign ministry told the ambassador that Egypt condemned the Israeli attacks. The ambassador blamed the Islamist movement Hamas and said Israel had not sought escalation, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.
A formal statement from the Egyptian presidency said Cairo would work to restore a truce between Israel and Gaza, and condemned the Israeli strikes while saying Egypt holds Israel responsible for the casualty toll.
"Egypt will continue its contacts to prepare an atmosphere conducive to restoring the period of calm and achieving reconciliation between the Palestinian groups," it said.
Quartet envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair, called on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately renew the lull. Blair's statement joins similar ones from state leaders the world over, all calling on Israel to halt the operation.
Washington refrained from doing so however, and the White House said for the violence to end, Hamas must stop rocket attacks into Israel. "Hamas' continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Arab League to convene
Elsewhere in the Arab world, Syria called the strike in Gaza a "barbaric crime", and called on the Arab League to hold a meeting on the subject immediately. "Syria is concernedly following the barbaric Israeli aggression against Palestinian citizens in Gaza and sees it as a horrid act of terror," the country's Foreign Ministry stated.
Meanwhile leaders from Arab nations have held consultations following the launch of the Israeli offensive. The Arab League has announced it will convene its members for an emergency session in the coming hours.
The Al-Jazeera news network has reported that Jordanian King Abdullah has called on Israel to halt all operations in Gaza. Meanwhile, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al-Thani has held talks with several Arab leaders on possible responses to the operation – including Saudi King Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
Qatar has already loaded three aircraft with aid, and plans to send them to Gaza. The planes are awaiting Egypt's authorization to transport the aid through its territory. Meanwhile Egypt has ordered dozens of ambulances to the Rafah crossing to help evacuate wounded Gazans for treatment in Egypt.