Special report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts
WELLINGTON, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 1,000
Palestinian supporters in New Zealand marched in central Wellington on Tuesday,
protesting against Israel's air and ground offensive in Gaza and called on the
New Zealand government to end its neutral stance.
The Wellington Palestine Group delivered a letter to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, attacking the government's position
of "taking no side" on the crisis.
While the government is supporting calls for an end
to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the group said it has stopped short at
condemning the ground invasion of Gaza by Israel.
In the letter, the group called for the credentials
of the Israeli ambassador to be revoked and for New Zealand to cut all ties with
New Zealand was jeopardizing a seat on the United
Nations' Human Rights Council, march organizers said.
The protesters said the people of New Zealand wanted
their government to take actions on it.
Protesters began marching at 12:30 p.m. local time
from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in Lambton Quay and headed
to a memorial monument for former Israeli leader and Nobel Peace Laureate
Yitzhak Rabin, near Civic Square, chanting to a drum beat, clapping and waving
The protest action in Wellington came as Israeli
tanks, planes and ground forces continue to pound Gaza, in the 10th day of
action. Israel's defense minister has warned that the offensive against Hamas
militants in the Palestinian enclave will go on until Israel was safe.
At the memorial, Wellington Palestinian Group
spokesman Don Carson said, "Let's send a message to our politicians to do
Father Gerard Burn then sprinkled red paint, mixed
with a drop of his own blood, on the monument to mark the killing of hundreds of
Palestinians and the seizure of their land.
As the crowd gathered, they chanted "They kill, they
lie but Palestine will never die", "Allahu Akhbar" and "Free, free Palestine".
Palestinian Ihab Almawajah, 19, said his cousin was
killed in the first of the Israeli strikes in Gaza. "It's not fair on innocent
people ... We hope the world understands that all Palestine wants is peace."
Protest spokeswoman Serena Moran said, "most other
governments" had condemned the Israel's invasion.
In a related development, New Zealand Foreign
Minister Murray McCully said earlier that the government had called on both
sides of the conflict to accept an immediate ceasefire.
"The New Zealand government is not prepared to choose
sides in the conflict in the manner that Mr Locke suggests. Both sides need to
step back from the brink."
Labour leader Phil Goff deplored the increasing toll,
saying "the appalling death toll and injury rate overwhelmingly involves
civilians, innocent of playing any part in the causes of the conflict."
"Neither those firing the Hamas rockets nor those who
have launched the disproportionate response, resulting in the deaths of more
than 400 people in Gaza, can escape condemnation for their actions."
He said the best prospect for finding a solution
remained international agreement to end the conflict.
Labor Party's foreign affairs spokeswoman Helen Clark
expressed concern that the United Nations Security Council had been unable to
agree on a further call for a ceasefire to hostilities in Gaza.
"There is no road to peace between Israel and the
Palestinians through this conflict in Gaza, but rather a deepening polarization
between the two sides which makes it even more difficult for a long term
settlement to be achieved."
The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand
said that it had "deep concern" about the Israeli attacks on Gaza.
It called on the government and other countries'
leaders to "come out strongly to censure Israel".