Strike in Gaza
Photo: AP

1,400 protest in Paris over Gaza fighting

Thousands gather in northern Paris to protest Israeli offensive in Strip

More than 1,000 people staged protests in Paris on Sunday against one of Israel's biggest-ever assaults on Palestinian militants, police said, as the French government pushed for a halt to fighting.


Some 1,300 people gathered in northern Paris in the Barbes neighborhood, and 150 gathered near the landmark Arc de Triomphe, a police spokeswoman said. The Barbes neighborhood has a large Arab population.


Both protests were peaceful, the spokeswoman said. She was not authorized to be publicly named according to agency policy.


Several police vans and officers formed a broad security perimeter around the Israeli Embassy in Paris on Sunday. The embassy, near the tourist-packed Champs-Elysees, is always tightly guarded by Paris police.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy held telephone talks Sunday with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and condemned what he called "the provocations that led to this situation as well as the disproportionate use of force." A statement from Sarkozy's office said the two leaders agreed to stay in contact in the coming days.


France, which has Western Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations, appears to be trying to use its waning days as president of the 27-nation European Union to press for a halt to fighting. France passes the EU presidency to the Czech Republic on Thursday.


France's foreign minister is rallying European nations to use "all their weight" to stop the fighting, he said in an interview published Sunday. Bernard Kouchner urged an immediate halt to Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes.


"We have entered a new spiral of despair," he is quoted in the Journal du Dimanche as saying.


Kouchner spoke to Abbas and Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Saturday. "The Egyptians are capable of restarting the peace process, we must help them," Kouchner is quoted as saying.


He also spoke to his European counterparts. "They are determined to apply all their weight on this issue," he said.


Kouchner noted that the attacks come "in a context of vacancy of power in Israel and the U.S." as both countries are undergoing leadership transitions.


"Europe has a role to play," Kouchner is quoted as saying. 


פרסום ראשון: 12.28.08, 21:22
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