New Zealanders protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza 2009-01-06 11:55:57   Print

Special report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts 

    By Huang Xingwei     

    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 Israel.

    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 signs.

    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 something."

    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". 


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