n a press conference held on Monday afternoon in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit responded to criticism by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday, saying that “They have practically declared war on Egypt via several satellite stations The Egyptian people reject and opposes this declaration.”
They want for there to be chaos in Egypt as there is in their country,” Gheit said of Hizbullah. “I tell this man [Nasrallah]: No, no! Our armed forces can defend our homeland from people like you. Your interest in creating chaos is not in the best interest of the area,” he added.
The Egyptian foreign minister added that his country had tried to prevent the escalation in violence by asking Israel not to carry out an operation in the Gaza Strip. “We asked Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to Cairo in order to tell her: ‘Do not attack the Gaza Strip,’ but unfortunately, this is not what happened.”
Meanwhile, Tens of thousands of Lebanese Hizbullah supporters poured into the streets of southern Beirut, protesting Israel’s air assault on the Gaza Strip. The protesters carried Palestinian, Lebanese and yellow Hizbullah flags and banners supporting the Palestinian people.
“Death to Israel,” and “At your service, Gaza!” many in the crowd shouted during Monday’s demonstration.
The massive rally was called for by Nasrallah who in a speech on Sunday urged crowds in the Arab and Islamic world to rise up in support of Gaza. He declared Monday a day of mourning and solidarity with Gaza. In his televised speech on Sunday, Nasrallah attacked Arab nations – particularly Egypt and Jordan – and accused them of cooperation with Israel in its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
“There are some who speak of Arab silence, but this is wrong. There is full Arab cooperation, especially by those who have signed so-called peace agreements with Israel,” he said.
The Hizbullah leader called on Arabs everywhere to go out into the streets and demonstrate, in order to force their governments to stop the Israeli offensive. Nasrallah reprimanded Egypt for casting the responsibility of the condition in Gaza on Hamas. He attacked the Egyptian foreign minister who in a Saturday press said that Hamas, which had been repeatedly warned by Egypt, must bear responsibility for the current situation in Gaza.
“Yesterday, we heard a high-ranking Egyptian leader cast the responsibility on the victim. Can we accept such things from Arabs? Casting the responsibility for this war on the Gaza resistance is embarrassing and saddening,” Nasrallah added. “Our nations call on Egypt to help.”
Nasrallah also warned the Lebanese government and army to be on alert in southern Lebanon in case Israel attacked. Nasrallah said Sunday that Hizbullah is ready to confront any Israeli “aggression” against Lebanon in light of Israel’s assault on Gaza.
“Since the beginning of the Zionist attack on Gaza, Israeli officials have issued threats about another front, and they mean Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.
He warned that Israel has taken measures on its borders that might or might not be defensive, and “might take advantage of the situation to launch an attack on Lebanon. “Nasrallah said that Israel needed such action on “an electoral level and to salvage the image of the Israeli army.” But, he added, “We are not concerned or afraid… We are ready to face any attack on our country.”
Nasrallah was speaking from a secret location through a giant screen to hundreds of supporters who gathered in Hizbullah’s stronghold of Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Elsewhere across the Middle East, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday for the second day in a row to protest Israel’s air assaults on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. From Ramallah to Lebanon to Iran and Iraq, crowds of protesters called for an end to Israel’s attacks, which began Saturday and have claimed more than 280 lives in the Hamas-controlled Strip.
Several of the protests turned violent.
“We have a disaster here… the number of people dying, the number of wounded, the number of houses and buildings destroyed, which is carried by almost 700 Arabic satellite stations” said Dr. Abdel Monem Said Ali, director of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies.
“I think it is mobilizing the Arab public in a way that for sure will push their governments” to take diplomatic and political action, he said.
Arab foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Wednesday under the auspices of the Arab League to “formulate the Arab position to deal with Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip,” Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa said Saturday night.
The urgent meeting was initially going to take place on Sunday but was delayed to accommodate members who had meetings scheduled with other Arab regional groups.
On Sunday, Moussa said that the UN Security Council action passed earlier in the day expressing serious concern at the escalating situation in Gaza and urging an immediate halt to all violence was “not enough.”
At the upcoming Arab League meeting, the members will “have to balance a very strong message of support to the Palestinians with keeping the road open to negotiations,” Ali said.
“Some will call on Egypt and Jordan to cut diplomatic relations with Israel.”
Already on Saturday, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir told Al-Jazeera that those nations which have normal relations with Israel should cut their ties in light of the Gaza operation, Ali said. Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania are the only three Arab League states that have full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Both Egypt and Jordan are receiving internal pressure from syndicates, trade unions and political parties to sever their relations with Israel.
Jordanian deputies burnt an Israeli flag during a parliamentary session on Sunday in a rare protest against the Jewish state’s raids on the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported.
Delaying the Arab League meeting by a few days could be a wise choice to let things cool off a bit, Ali said.