As fighting intensified across the Gaza Strip, world leaders called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to end casualties on both sides. President Bush, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Pope all called for an end to the fighting.
“I ask for a show of humanity and wisdom among those responsible in this situation. I ask the international community not to leave any stone unturned to help the Israelis and Palestinians turn away from this dead end,” said the Pope, in a speech on Dec. 28 at the Vatican in Rome.
After repeated rocket and mortar attacks on random and civilian targets by Hamas militants, Israel launched massive air strikes into Gaza on Dec. 29. Israeli leaders have said that they will continue their attacks until Hamas halts its attacks.
Israeli missiles have destroyed five ministerial buildings in Gaza City, according to witness reports from Reuters. Medical officials in Gaza said the Palestinian toll has risen to 345 dead and more than 800 wounded. Hamas increased its rocket and mortar attacks in response.
On the morning of Dec. 29, President Bush spoke with King Abdullah of Jordan about the conflict. According to White House Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe, who spoke at a press conference later that day, President Bush’s message to King Abdullah is that the U.S. wants to see an end to the violence and a sustainable ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would be acceptable to both parties.
According to Johndroe, the United States is trying to maintain a neutral position. “The United States is not involved in this action in any specific way. The United States has provided millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, and so we are certainly encouraging countries in the region to continue their efforts to bring medical and food supplies to the people of Gaza,” he said.
“In order for the violence to stop Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel, and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire. That is the objective to which all parties need to be working, and that is what the United States is working towards,” he said.
Israel has sent troops and tanks to the Gaza border. Israeli leaders have stated that they have no intention of retaking Gaza and that their intentions are only to protect the Israeli people. Protests against the Israeli response have been held in many cities across the Middle East.
U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for a ceasefire on both sides, expressing his alarm at the escalation of violence in and around Gaza.
"This is unacceptable," he said. "I have been repeatedly condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas militants against Israel.
"All this must stop. Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately. They must also curb their inflammatory rhetoric. Only then can dialogue start."
He also said world leaders had not done enough to remedy the situation: "I think regional and international partners have not done enough … They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasizing peaceful ways of resolving differences."
On Dec. 28, The Pope gave a speech at the Vatican in Rome calling for an end to the violence and a return of peace to the Gaza strip.
“I ask for a show of humanity and wisdom among those responsible in this situation. I ask the international community not to leave any stone unturned to help the Israelis and Palestinians turn away from this dead end,” said the Pope.