19 Jan 2009

NZ Govt urges Israel, Hamas to stick to ceasefire

10:53 am on 19 January 2009

The New Zealand Government says both Israel and Hamas need to stick to their ceasefire commitments in order allow diplomatic negotiations to get underway.

Hamas has said it will cease fire immediately and give Israel, which already declared a unilateral truce, one week to pull its troops out of Gaza.

During the 22-day-long offensive, Israeli attacks killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, including some 700 civilians, Gaza medical officials said. Israel said hundreds of gunmen were among the dead.

Ten Israeli soldiers were killed as well as three Israeli civilians hit by rockets.

Prime Minister John Key has welcomed the week-long ceasefire by Hamas, but said the only way forward to lasting peace in the Middle East is through negotiation and dialogue.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the ceasefire needs to hold, to give diplomatic efforts the opportunity to get underway.

European leaders were heading to a summit with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to try to bolster the truce.

Pro-Israeli rally

About 200 people took part in a rally in Auckland on Sunday afternoon in support of Israel's actions.

The gathering was organised by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students who say the country's actions have been in self defence.

The group's co-leader Alon Meltzer says New Zealand cannot pass judgment as it has not experienced what it's like to constantly dodge bullets, bombs and the like.

He says while news of the unilateral cease-fire is undoubtedly a good thing, Hamas is still required to agree.

Anti-Israeli protests

A protester was arrested on Saturday afternoon at a demonstration outside an Auckland business said to have provided parts for Israeli bombs.

Rakon in Mount Wellington is said to manufacture crystal oscillators that are used in guidance systems for missiles and munitions systems.

Protester Tyler Culpepper climbed onto the building's roof, adjusting some signage with paint to read "Rakon kills".

He will appear in court next week on a wilful damage charge.

About 400 people took part in the protest which was organised by the group Global Peace and Justice.

Rakon says its products are not sold directly to the Israeli government, and it takes hundreds of components to build the GPS systems used in "smart bombs".

On Saturday, more than 500 people took to the streets in Christchurch to demonstrate against Israel's invasion of Gaza.

The Justice for Palestine group and its supporters marched from the Canterbury Museum to Cathedral Square carrying placards declaring "resistance is not terrorism" and chanting.

In Dunedin, about 100 people also took to the streets to demonstrate against the Israeli offensive.