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World Leaders React to Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza   


Israel's deadly airstrikes on Hamas compounds in the Gaza Strip are drawing sharp reactions in the Arab world, and a variety of responses elsewhere.

The Israeli attacks brought immediate condemnation from Arab leaders, and especially from Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum who said the Palestinian people would not "live in bloodshed and between body parts, wounded and dead people," and that Israel must "pay the price" for what he called "this aggression."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah group is a rival of Hamas, denounced the airstrikes and called for restraint.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said his organization is shocked by the airstrikes, and condemns them as "an unimaginable and unacceptable act."

The Arab League has scheduled an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the situation. Moussa also said Arab League member Libya will call on fellow members of the United Nations Security Council to meet as soon as possible to deal with the situation in Gaza.

Egypt condemned the airstrikes as well, and said it would open its border with Gaza to allow some of the wounded to be brought out.

Protesters in Jordan's capital, Amman, condemned the air raids.

Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, defended her country's actions and called for the support and understanding of the international community.

"The international community understands that Hamas is an extreme Islamist organization that spreads its hatred in the entire region, which is being supported by Iran," she said. "And the international community needs to understand that this is the translation of the right of Israel to defend itself, that there is no other alternative and we are doing what we need to do in order to defend our citizens."

Elsewhere, the U.N., British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and special Mideast envoy Tony Blair all called for an immediate restoration of calm.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi urged Israelis and Palestinians to "look for a different way out, even though it seems impossible."

The United States urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties, and said Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel.

Russia also called on Hamas to halt the rocket attacks, and urged Israel to halt its military operation in Gaza.

However, there is no indication that the Israelis are ready to pull back from Gaza. When a reporter asked Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak how long the military operation would take, he responded, "It will take time" and it will "widen as necessary."


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