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Rafah missile strike prompts widespread condemnation
by haaretz
Wednesday May 19th, 2004 8:36 AM
Opposition MKs demanded that the Israel Defense Forces immediately suspend its operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip following the deadly missile strike on protesters that killed and injured dozens of Palestinians, many of them children.
The White House said Wednesday it was "very concerned" about the number of deaths in the strike, and has asked Israel to explain its actions.

"We are very concerned about reports from Gaza and the number of Palestinians who are said to have been injured and killed," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"We have asked the Government of Israel for the facts about what happened today. We will continue to follow this closely and we urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint," McClellan said.

The Knesset was in session when news of the missile strike broke.

MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) termed the Rafah missile strike a "massacre" and called for international intervention.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon should face an international tribunal, MK Azmi Bishara (Balad) said, adding that they should be forced to explain their actions.

MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash) said that the defense minister, chief of staff and the pilot who fired the missiles should all be put on trial. Tibi got so upset at the news of the events in Rafah, he had to be examined by the Knesset resident doctor.

MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) said that the operation in Rafah should be halted immediately, before it turns into another Lebanon.

Meretz MK Ran Cohen called on the IDF to stop the killing and get out of Rafah.

Fellow Meretz MK, Roman Bronfman said that the army does not discern between protesters and terrorists.

Another Meretz MK, Avshalom Vilan, said the order to fire on the protesters was illegal, while fellow party member Zahava Gal-On said the soldiers should have refused to carry out the order.

MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said the events were "tragic" but one must remember that the Palestinians frequently send civilians into dangerous areas on purpose.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who were meeting in Spain at the time, called for the immediate cessation of the operation in Rafah.

"These crimes that are committed daily against our people ... express and reflect the fact that this Israeli government has no desire for peace," Qureia said.

The Palestinian Authority called on the United Nations Security Council to take sanctions against Israel, and to decide on measures against Israel in Wednesday evening's session to discuss three resolutions calling on Israel to halt the operation.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the Rafah operation "unacceptable and wrong" while Moscow slammed what it called a "disproportionate use of force."