Egyptians protest Israel air strikes

President Mursi terms attacks on Gaza as blatant aggression

Thousands of people protested in Egyptian cities on Saturday against Israeli air strikes on Gaza and Egypt’s president pledged to support the Palestinian enclave’s population in the face of “blatant aggression”.

Western governments are watching Egypt’s response to the Gaza conflagration for signs of a more assertive stance towards Israel since an Islamist came to power in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

President Mohamed Mursi is mindful of anti-Israeli sentiment among Egyptians emboldened by last year's Arab Spring uprising but needs to show Western allies his new government is no threat to Middle East peace.

His prime minister, Hisham Kandil, visited Gaza on Friday in a demonstration of solidarity after two days of strikes by Israeli warplanes targeting Gaza militants, who had stepped up rocket fire into Israel in recent weeks. Gaza officials said 28 Palestinians, 16 of them civilians, had been killed in the enclave since Israel began the air offensive against the tiny, densely populated enclave ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement. Three Israelis were killed by a rocket on Thursday.

“We see what is happening in Gaza as blatant aggression against humanity,” Mursi said in comments carried by Egypt's state news agency. “I warn and repeat my warning to the aggressors that they will never rule over the people of Gaza.

“I tell them in the name of all the Egyptian people that Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday, and Arabs today are not the Arabs of yesterday."

The Egyptian foreign minister also spoke to his counterparts in the United States, Jordan, Brazil and Italy to discuss the situation in Gaza, a ministry statement said.

Mohamed Kamel Amr spoke to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the necessity of
cooperation between the United States and Egypt to end the military confrontations. Amr stressed on the need of Israel ending attacks on Gaza and a truce being rebuilt between the two sides, the statement said.

Israeli ministers were asked to endorse the call-up of up to 75,000 reservists after Gaza militants nearly hit Jerusalem. with a rocket for the first time in decades and fired at Tel Aviv for a second day. Such a call-up could be the precursor of a ground invasion into Gaza, or just psychological warfare.

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