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World leaders condemn escalation of violence in Gaza
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Leaders from around the world Sunday continued to condemn the escalation of violence in Gaza and called for peace in the region.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was saddened by the Palestinian casualties and called for an immediate end to all acts of violence in Gaza and southern Israel.

In a statement Sunday, Ban said he deplores the fact "that violence is continuing today."

President of the UN General Assembly Miguel D'Escoto said the Israeli air strikes "represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an occupying power and in the requirements of the laws of war."

"The behavior by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful state against a territory that (it) illegally occupies," he said in a statement.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy "strongly condemned the provocation that led to this situation and the disproportionate use of force," according to a statement Sunday from the Elysee Palace.

He regretted the loss of lives and called for an immediate end to rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli shelling on Gaza.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for the immediate end to the violence in Gaza and urged the resumption of truce during a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Tzipora Livni.

"The Russian minister stressed the need for renewed truce, which would ensure the security of civilians in southern Israel. The importance of humanitarian supplies to Gaza was emphasized," Itar-Tass cited a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.

Also on Sunday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for "an urgent ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence" in Gaza.

"The deteriorating humanitarian situation is deeply disturbing," he said in a statement.

Jordan announced Sunday that it had summoned the Israeli charge d'affaires in protest against the "unjustified" attacks launched by Israel against the Gaza Strip.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also handed him "a strongly worded memorandum" against "Israel's unjustified aggression against Gaza," the state-run Petra news agency said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, in a statement Sunday, said his country has always supported a just, peaceful and durable settlement of the issue of Palestine.

He said the use of force not only contravened international principles and norms but would also be counter-productive.

In response to Israel's statement that the raids were in retaliation against Hamas' rocket attacks into Israeli territory, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said such reaction was incommensurate.

He said he had, during a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, stressed the need for a permanent truce between the warring parties and a political solution to the crisis in the Middle East.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said both Hamas and Israel "ought to, against this background, declare as quickly as possible that they are willing to return to their earlier ceasefire and halt all combat operations."

The Cypriot Foreign Ministry also issued an statement Sunday, expressing "grave concern" over the situation.

Cyprus condemned "all indiscriminate acts against civilian targets" and called for "the immediate termination of acts of violence and of the use of disproportionate force," the statement said.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Sunday expressed her country's concern over the situation in Gaza.

"Hamas' rockets, which sparked a new cycle of violence, and the disproportionate answer by Israel with air raids and bombings, are killing and injuring people along with the hope and prospects for peace in this tragic part of the world. They are threatening the region's already extremely fragile security," she said.

Latin American countries also joined the chorus of condemnation Sunday, with the Common Market of the South (Mercosur), which groups Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, criticizing the escalation of violence in Gaza and the Israeli bombings.

The Cuban government, in a statement Sunday, called Israel's attack an act of genocide and a violation of international law and the UN Charter.

The Venezuelan government expressed "solidarity with the Palestinian people" and accused U.S. President George W. Bush's government of being the "only accomplice" of the Israelis, while Argentina demanded an end to the bombing and called for a re-establishment of truce.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Saturday voiced China's concerns over the escalation of tension in the region.

China condemned any move that leads to civilian casualties, opposed solving disputes by force and called on parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint to solve their disputes through dialogue, Qin said.

About 300 people have been killed and 1,000 others injured in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since Saturday.

(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2008)

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