Abbas: IDF's Gaza operation worse than a holocaust
Palestinian president responds to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai's remark that Palestinians would bring on themselves 'bigger holocaust' by stepping up rocket attacks on Israel. MK Zahalka calls on Abbas to cease negotiations with Israel, 'slam the door' on Prime Minister Olmert
"It's very regrettable that what is happening is more than a holocaust. We tell the world to see with its own eyes and judge for itself what is happening and who is carrying out international terrorism," Abbas told reporters in Ramallah.
Abbas was responding to remarks made by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilani, who said Friday that the Palestinians would bring on themselves what he called a "bigger holocaust" by stepping up rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.
"It is regrettable that Israel uses this word, banned for more than 60 years, the word 'holocaust,' and we demand that the world respond," Abbas said.
But Vilnai's spokesman took strong exception to media reports that quoted the minister calling for a "Holocaust" in Gaza.
"The minister used the Hebrew term 'shoah' which means 'catastrophe' and in this context does not refer to the 'the Shoah' - the Holocaust," Eytan Guinsburg said on Friday.
Abbas meanwhile called for "international protection for the Palestinian people" while his office said he had contacted several world leaders to press for an end to the Israeli assault.
"It is unthinkable that Israel's reaction to Palestinian rocket attacks - which we condemn - can be so terrible and frightening," Abbas said, adding that the attacks were targeting "innocent women, children and old people."
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Friday of Vilnai's comments, "We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people."
On Friday, Abbas called on Israel to stop all strikes in Gaza Friday and urged Palestinian groups to halt ongoing rocket attacks on Israel, implying that the Qassams targeting Israeli communities hurt the Palestinians.
"It is in the interest of the Palestinian people not to give Israel any pretext to continue its aggressions," a statement from the Palestinian leader's office said.
Tibi: Israel committing crimesSeven children, three women, two unarmed men and 20 gunmen – most of them Hamas operatives, and several members of the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees – were killed in the IDF operation Saturday. More than 60 Palestinians were injured.
Five IDF soldiers were lightly to moderately wounded in the clashes. They were evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba via helicopter.
Meanwhile, Israeli Arab Knesset members called on the government to halt its operation in Gaza.
The Balad movement decided Saturday to hold rallies in main intersections in the Galilee, the Triangle and the Negev, in protest of the Israeli operation.
The party's chairman, Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka, said that "the attack on Gaza is an attack on the entire Palestinian people." He called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to cease the peace talks with Israel and "slam the door" on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in order to create a political crisis.
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) demanded Saturday that the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee hold an urgent meeting over "the crimes of the occupation in Gaza and the mass killing of civilians. Tibi sent an urgent letter on the matter to the committee's chairman, Shawki Kahtib.
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report