The developments in the Middle East are very dangerous, the Turkish prime minister said Wednesday at the start of a regional tour in a bid to exercise pressure on both Israel and the international community for a ceasefire. (UPDATED)
"The developments in the Gaza Strip are extremely dangerous for regional peace and in humanitarian terms, and therefore we cannot remain silent," Turkish Prime Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara ahead of his departure for Syria.
"We are concerned that the Middle East will become engaged in a spiral of violence. The aim of this tour, which begins today, is to bring about an end to these dangerous goings on," he added.
Erdogan will meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to discuss the deadly Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Earlier media reports suggested he would also meet Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader living in Damascus. But Erdogan denied such a meeting was scheduled.
Erdogan will proceed to Jordan later on Wednesday to meet King Abdallah II and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of al Fatah in Jordan to discuss the Israeli attacks and other issues at the Red Sea city of Aqabaon.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from rival Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.
EGYPT AND S. ARABIA VISITS
The Turkish prime minister will return to Turkey on Wednesday following his meetings in Jordan. He will visit Egypt on Thursday and Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Erdogan said he has no meetings planned with Israeli officials, adding he would hold meetings with Western countries after his Middle East tour.
Countries in the region had stepped in to reduce the tension which escalated after Israel carried out air operations against Gaza.
Earlier this week Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit paid a visit to Turkey to discuss the recent situation. Turkey, Egypt and several other regional governments are also pursuing their own initiative calling for a ceasefire and reopening of Gaza's crossings with Israel.
An Egyptian-Turkish peace plan would call for an immediate halt to the Israeli assault, a return to a long-term Hamas-Israel truce and international guarantees to keep border crossings into Gaza open.
Israeli officials warned that the onslaught could continue for weeks, as air strikes and artillery strikes continued into a fifth day Wednesday.
At least 25 percent of Palestinians killed during Israel’s massive offensive in the Gaza Strip have been civilians, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said.
Since the start of the Israeli offensive on Saturday at least 390 Palestinians have been killed and another 1,900 wounded, according to Gaza medics. At least 42 of those killed have been children, they say.
ISRAEL REJECTS FRENCH PROPOSAL
Israel on Wednesday described as unrealistic a French proposal for a 48-hour truce that would allow more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
"(The French) proposal contained no guarantees of any kind that Hamas will stop the rockets and smuggling," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted by Reuters as saying.
"It is not realistic to expect Israel to ceasefire unilaterally with no mechanism to enforce the cessation of shooting and terror from Hamas," he said.
At least two Hamas rockets hit Beersheba, the city Israel calls the capital of the Negev, its southern region on Wednesday, Reuters reported. One struck a school that was empty. Municipal authorities had cancelled classes after rockets landed in Beersheba on Tuesday evening for the first time.