Diplomats struggle to hold Israel to cease-fire

Thousands of people marched in demonstrations across Germany on Saturday afternoon calling for a halt to the violence in the Gaza Strip, just hours before Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire.

Diplomats struggle to hold Israel to cease-fire
Photo: DPA

But any relief felt by those desperate to see the fighting stop, was short-lived, as by Sunday morning rockets were being fired on Israel while at least one air attack was carried out on Gaza and soldiers inside the Strip fought each other.

German cities had been filled with people demonstrating against the Israeli attacks, with around 6,000 marching in Berlin, a further 4,500 in Frankfurt and about 4,000 in Hamburg.

In Duisburg, where last weekend the police came under heavy criticism for removing an Israeli flag from a window near where a demonstration was passing, a march this weekend was stopped. Eye witnesses said a firework was thrown at a group of other demonstrators who had been carrying an Israeli flag.

Berlin’s interior minister Eberhard Körting has called for Hamas to be banned in Germany, saying it is violent, terrorist and anti-Semitic, but demonstrators are allowed to carry its flag.

The Israeli government announced its cease-fire on Saturday night, saying it would take effect at 2am local time (1am CET). It was welcomed by all those involved in diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting and improve the humanitarian conditions inside Gaza.

Germany, France and the UK said on Saturday they were ready to help stop arms being smuggled into Gaza – in a joint letter to the Israeli and Egyptian governments.

Although the British government said it was prepared to use naval power to monitor and stop arms traffic into Gaza, and the German government said last weekend it was ready to send a team to Egypt to try to cut off tunnel access, Thomas Steg, German government spokesman said details were not finalised.

Chancellor Angela Merkel headed for Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt on Sunday to join other European leaders as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at a diplomatic summit, from where she will also travel to Tel Aviv to meet Israeli premier Ehud Olmert.