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Israel calls Mideast terror "declarations of war"

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 (Reuters) Israel's ambassador to the United Nations called actions by Iran, Syria and Palestinian leaders ''declarations of war,'' but the Palestinian envoy said Israel's attacks on Gaza were inhumane and violated international law.

The two diplomats opened a UN Security Council debate, that included more than two dozen speakers. The session had been scheduled before yesterday's Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, in which nine people were killed and 60 wounded.

Nevertheless, the Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, echoed the condemnation made by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. The Hamas-led Palestinian government has not made similar comments.

''We restate our condemnation of the loss of innocent lives, Palestinian and Israelis, and we call upon the occupying power to do the same,'' Mansour told the council yesterday.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said every day fundamentalist leaders were inciting acts of terrorism.

''A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria, and the newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority,'' Gillerman said.

''These recent statements are clear declarations of war, and I urge each and every one of you to listen carefully and take them at face value.'' He said Iran and Syria harbored and financed Hamas and Lebanon's Hizbollah group, citing comments from Hamas leaders based in Syria, Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian Authority's prime minister, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

''Those words speak for themselves and do not need any interpretation. They are clear and represent the stated goal of this axis of terror, which to our dreadfulness, was again executed this morning in Tel Aviv,'' Gillerman said.

Arab and African delegates backed Mansour's condemnation of what he called Israel's ''excess and indiscriminate force against Palestinian civilians,'' particularly those in Gaza that he said killed 15 to 21 civilians, among them two children.

In the past week, Israel has bombarded targets in Gaza, from where militants often fire home-made rockets into Israel. The death toll is the highest since Israel pulled out of Gaza last August and September after 38 years of occupation.

The meeting was called after the United States last week refused to agree to a compromise statement on Israeli military strikes in Gaza, saying the draft was ''disproportionately critical of Israel.'' REUTERS PDS PM0457

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