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Sarkozy Urges Syria to Exert Pressure on Hamas for Gaza Cease-Fire


French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in Syria Tuesday in an effort to arrange a cease-fire in the beleaguered Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces continued their offensive against Hamas militants, who continue firing rockets into Israel.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy took his diplomatic shuttle mission to Damascus, where he urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use his influence with Hamas in a bid to hammer out a ceasefire in Gaza.

Sarkozy told President Assad that there is "no military solution in Gaza" and stressed that he had delivered the same message to Israeli leaders, during lengthy discussions in Jerusalem, Monday.

The Syrian president, for his part, used scathing language to denounce what he called "Israel's barbaric aggression in Gaza," calling the besieged enclave a "concentration camp," where he said 30 percent of the victims are children.

President Assad went on to accuse Israel of breaching the 1954 Geneva Conventions regarding the protection of civilians by an occupation power during time of war.

What is happening, he says, is a "war crime" and he said Amnesty International issued a report accusing Israel of breaching the Geneva Conventions. Israel, he adds, hasn't learned the lessons of [its 2006 military operation in] Lebanon, and everyone in the region is going to pay the price, including Israel.

Sarkozy's trip to Damascus and other countries in the region, including Israel and Egypt, is but one diplomatic effort to halt the fighting in Gaza and allow the flow of humanitarian supplies. In addition to calling for a ceasefire, Mr. Sarkozy has there has to be a halt to the firing of Hamas rockets into Israel.

In Cairo, Egyptian mediators are also trying to broker a cease-fire as intelligence head, General Omar Suleiman, meets with two Damascus-based members of Hamas' politburo, Emad al-Alami and Mohammed Nasr. Al-Arabiya TV says that Israel prevented two other Hamas leaders from leaving Gaza to attend the talks.

Hamas spokesman in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan, says that Hamas leaders will "listen to whatever the Egyptians have to propose," before they return to Gaza to discuss the proposals with political bureau of Hamas. He said the [Israeli] aggression in Gaza must end unconditionally and the border crossings must reopen.

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