Wednesday, May 16, 2007

EU: Israel should not use disproportionate force in Gaza - Haaretz - Israel News

EU: Israel should not use disproportionate force in Gaza
By News Agencies

Israel should not use disproportionate force to defend itself against Palestinian militants, European Union President Finland said Sunday, criticizing growing civilian casualties in fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Finland also called on the Palestinian leadership to stop militants firing rockets into Israel, acts which have prompted Israel's largest operation since the army and settlers pulled out of Gaza in 2005, after 38 years of ccupation.

"The Presidency deplores the growing number of civilian casualties the Israeli military operation has caused," Finland said in a statement.

It said the four, from Austria, Canada, China and Finland, had taken shelter in a bunker under the post after it was earlier shelled 14 times by Israeli artillery. A rescue team was also shelled as it tried to clear the rubble. "I am shocked and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defence Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon," Mr Annan said in a statement from Rome.

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BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israeli bomb kills UN observers

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked" at the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post. Israel has expressed "deep regret".

Israel earlier said it would control an area in southern Lebanon until international forces deployed.

The force will be discussed at international crisis talks to be held in Rome on Wednesday.

The meeting is being attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mr Annan, as well as foreign ministers and top officials from five European and four Arab countries.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall said the Italian prime minister and others believe a quick ceasefire to be the main priority.

But the US and Britain will not push for a ceasefire unless root causes of the conflict are addressed, she adds.

The summit will take place without a delegation from Israel.

Observers sheltering

Ms Rice will attend the talks after ending her tour of the Middle East on Tuesday.

More than 380 Lebanese and 42 Israelis have died in nearly two weeks of conflict in Lebanon, which began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.

The UN in Lebanon says the Israeli air force destroyed the post, in which four military observers were sheltering.