Søvndal appeals to both Israelis and Palestinians to cease fighting

As civilian casualties mount in Gaza, the foreign minister asks both sides to stand down

November 19th, 2012 7:59 pm| by admin

Israeli aircraft struck crowded areas in the Gaza Strip today, driving up the Palestinian death toll to 109 in a new tactic in Israel's six-day-old offensive meant to stop Hamas rocket fire on Israel.

Israel’s escalation of its bombing attacks has led to a sharp rise in civilian casualties, with 24 civilians killed in less than two days doubling the total number of civilians killed in the conflict.

Although he was well aware his words could fall on deaf ears, the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), added his voice to those calling on both sides for a cease fire.

“It may seem right now that it is impossible to get the two states to co-operate, but I think that the events of recent days underline the need for a political solution to the conflict,” Søvndal told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

The foreign minister is in Brussels for meetings with his counterparts from other EU countries. Although the Gaza conflict is on the agenda, Søvndal admitted that there is not much that the EU can do.

“All we can do is ask that they end hostilities and return to the negotiating table,” he said.

Søvndal stressed that the escalating civilian casualties make it even more necessary to find a quick solution.

He said that he would support delaying a vote on upgrading the Palestinians’ UN status to allow more time for negotiations between the two sides.

Denmark supports the Palestinian authority's desire to be upgraded from ‘observer’ to the more influential ‘non-member observer’ status in the UN, but Søvndal said it would be ‘just fine’ if his EU colleagues decided to delay a vote on whether or not to support the bid.

During the election campaign last year, Søvndal created a bit of an uproar when he expressed a desire to see the Palestinian territories gain full UN statehood, rather than just an upgrade.

But despite the government's common policy platform declaring it would "work towards having Palestine recognised as a state", the foreign minister has since changed his position.

“Denmark is doing everything it can to help upgrade Palestine at the UN – but we're not talking about full recognition, only the upgrade,” said Søvndal

As of this afternoon, the Israeli offensive that began last Wednesday has killed 109 Palestinians, including over 50 civilians, and wounded some 720 people, according to a Gaza heath official. Among the wounded were 225 children.

On the Israeli side, three civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire and 70 have been wounded. An Israeli rocket defence system has intercepted hundreds of rockets bound for populated areas.

Failure to end the fighting threatens to touch off an Israeli ground invasion. Thousands of soldiers, tanks and armoured vehicles have already been mobilised and sent to Gaza's border.

Israel and Hamas have put forth widely divergent conditions for a truce.

These university lecture halls are getting bigger every year
The University of Christiansborg: How politicians are saying goodbye ballot box, hello boardroom
Politicians are getting younger and some have many working years ahead of t...
Higher education is also facing a shortfall (photo: iStock)
‘Tighter framework’ impairing schools
On September 29, the Venstre government presented its budget proposal for 2...
The cost of fuel accounts for up to 40 percent of the costs associated with running a fishing vessel (photo: iStock)
Danish government supporting fishing drone program
The Environment and Food Ministry is contributing 1.7 million kroner to a p...
Court: failings in delivery procedures (photo: iStock)
Danish fraud squad’s postal blunder costs prosecution in stock manipulation case
An administrative mistake by the fraud office, Statsadvokaten for Særlig ...
It was a good day for Danish swimming (photo: Dansk Svømmeunion)
Denmark to host 2017 European Swimming Championships
The European Swimming Federation (LEN) has announced today at its congress ...
A general suicide prevention program and special campaigns focusing on girls and older men are at issue (photo: iStock)
Danish government proposes more cuts to suicide prevention
The government has been attracting criticism since announcing at the end of...