Egypt says Israel using excessive force in Gaza
'IDF bombarding civilians without distinction,' FM Aboul Gheit says during joint press conference with American counterpart in Cairo. Rice says Hamas using rocket attacks on Israel to delay peace process, voices concern over humanitarian situation in Strip
"Israel is using excessive force against the Palestinians in Gaza; this must stop," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday.
"Israel is bombarding civilians without distinction," he said during a joint press conference in Cairo with his American counterpart Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Rice, who is in Cairo on the first leg of a brief Middle East trip, blamed Hamas for the escalation in Gaza and demanded that the Islamist group halt the rocket attacks on Israel.
Saying Israel had the right to defend itself, the American secretary of state told reporters Hamas was trying to wreck Palestinian statehood talks between Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who cut off negotiations last weekend.
From left to right: Aboul Gheit, Rice and Mubarak (Photo: AFP)
"Hamas is doing what might be expected, which is using rocket attacks on Israel to arrest a peace process in which they have nothing to gain," Rice said.
"Negotiations ought to resume as soon as possible. I am going to have discussions with the parties about how we try to keep this process going, given that obviously there are going to be spoilers.
"I continue to believe that they can get to a deal by the end of the year if everybody has got the will to do it," said Rice, adding implementation of a deal would take a lot longer.
While calling for an end to violence that has killed almost 120 Palestinians - around half of them civilians - Rice did not specifically demand a ceasefire, but did voice her concern over the humanitarian situation in the coastal strip, adding that Israel must make every effort so as not to harm the civilian population there.
"I do think it will help if something can be done about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including about regularizing in some fashion the Rafah crossing," she said.
Rice said her talks with President Hosni Mubarak and Aboul Gheit also focused on the presidential crisis in Lebanon and the situation in Iraq and Darfur.
Reuters contributed to the report