In a first, China opposes Israeli actions in Gaza


BEIJING: Israel’s actions in Gaza have gone “beyond the scope of self-defence” and the Israeli government must “cease its collective punishment of the people of Gaza”, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said in remarks published Sunday.

Wang, who made the comments on a call to his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday, said “all parties should not take any action to escalate the situation and should return to the negotiating table as soon as possible,” according to a foreign ministry readout.

Chinese envoy Zhai Jun will visit the Middle East next week to push for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict and promote peace talks, state broadcaster CCTV reported Sunday.

Zhai “will visit the Middle East next week to coordinate with various parties for a ceasefire, to protect civilians, ease the situation, and promote peace talks,” CCTV said in a video posted to its official social media account on Sunday.

The CCTV report came as Israel appeared poised for a ground offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza.

More than one million people in the northern part of the crowded enclave have been ordered to leave ahead of the expected assault, an exodus that aid groups said would set off a humanitarian disaster.

The cramped and impoverished territory, where 2.3 million residents live on top of each other, has been under a land, air and sea blockade since 2006.

The latest deadly Israeli salvos were sparked by a Hamas raid which saw fighters break through the heavily fortified border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and gun down, stab and burn to death more than 1,300 people.

In Gaza, health officials said Israel’s response had killed more than 2,200 people. As on the Israeli side, most of them were civilians.

Zhai said in an interview with CCTV that “the prospect of further broadening and outward spillover (of the conflict) is deeply worrying”, according to the broadcaster.

Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi called on Saturday for the United States to “play a constructive and responsible role” in the conflict and urged “the convening of an international peace meeting as soon as possible to promote the reaching of broad consensus”.

Zhai met Friday with the Arab League’s representatives in China and said Beijing supported the regional group “in playing an important role on the Palestine issue”, according to a foreign ministry statement.

He told the bloc that Beijing would “make unremitting efforts to get the Middle East peace process back on track”, the statement added. -APP/AFP