Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip were "unacceptable" and would destabilize the region, in a televised address to the nation on Thursday.
It was the Islamist leader's starkest rhetoric targeting the Jewish state since he took office in June following Egypt's first free leadership election.
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Looking more subdued and downcast than in previous public addresses, Morsi repeatedly looked away from the camera as he listed steps he had taken to recall Egypt's ambassador in Israel and reach out to the United Nations Security Council.
Anti-Israel rally in Cairo (Photo: AP)
"We are in contact with the people of Gaza and with Palestinians and we stand by them until we stop the aggression and we do not accept under any circumstances the continuation of this aggression on the Strip," Mursi said.
"The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region," he said.
It was the first time Morsi mentioned Israel by name in a public address. Ties between the two neighbors were never warm but have cooled further since Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak, a staunch US ally, was deposed in a street revolt last year.
Plea to US
Meanwhile, Egypt asked the United States to push Israel to stop its offensive against Hamas terrorist in the Gaza Strip, warning that the violence could "escalate out of control," the Egyptian foreign ministry said Thursday.
IAF strike on Gaza (Photo: AP)
Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr spoke with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton late the night before, asking for "immediate US intervention to stop the Israeli aggression," the ministry said in a statement. The call came after Egypt recalled its ambassador to Israel to protest the offensive.
Israel barraged the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and shelling Wednesday and killed the Hamas military chief in a targeted strike, launching a campaign aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Islamic militants.
Thursday saw incessant rockets fired from Gaza on Israel's southern communities. One Grad rocket that hit an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi killed three civilians, raising the likelihood of a further escalation.
Amr told Clinton that if Israel's offensive does not stop, "matters will escalate out of control" and asked the US "to use what contacts it has with Israel."
President Barack Obama on Wednesday spoke with Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing his support for Israel's right to self-defense and saying Hamas rocket fire must end.
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