Iran: Minister urges states to cut ties with Israel

Tehran, 13 Jan. (AKI) - Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Tuesday that Iran has called on countries around the world, especially Arab and Muslim countries, to sever their diplomatic ties with Israel in support of Palestinians.

Mottaki said other countries could take their lead from Venezuela and Mauritania, which expelled Israel's ambassadors to protest against its 18-day military offensive in Gaza that has killed over 900 people and injured more than 4,100.

The United States has accused Iran of supplying weapons to militants from the ruling Palestinian group in Gaza, Hamas, via a network of tunnels into the territory from Egypt.

Israel claims its aerial and ground offensive is designed to stop Hamas firing rockets into Israel by targeting rocket-launching infrastructure, weapons caches, and the suspected arms-smuggling tunnels.

Around half the victims of the Israeli military assault are believed to be civilians.

Doctors and international aid workers have reported that some of the injured have been dying of their injuries due to a shortage of ambulances and patients have been dying at Gaza's main Shifa hospital due to a shortage of specialist doctors and medical equipment.

Mottaki (photo) said an office had been established at the foreign ministry to coordinate efforts by the ministry, the Red Crescent Society and other organisations to help the people of Gaza.

The Islamic Inter-Parliamentary Union will hold a special session on Gaza in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Wednesday, Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, told journalists before he left to attend the meeting.

Turkey is one of a handful of Muslim countries which have diplomatic relations with Israel, including Egypt and Jordan.

The chief of the Iranian judiciary, chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, on Monday called for a United Nations fact-finding mission to Gaza to probe what he alleged were Israeli war crimes. He described the Israeli military action against the Palestinians as "genocide".

The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution on Monday condemning the Israeli offensive for "massive violations of human rights".

Pressure from UN officials and human rights groups is growing for an international war crimes investigation in Gaza over allegations such as the "reckless and indiscriminate" shelling of residential areas and allegations that Palestinian families are being used by soldiers as human shields.

Some human rights activists claim that Israeli leaders made a decision to keep their military casualties low no matter the cost to civilians. Thirteen Israelis including 10 soldiers have been killed in the conflict.

Other allegations against the Israeli military include using powerful shells in civilian areas to cause large numbers of innocent casualties and using banned weapons such as phosphorus bombs.

There have also been claims that Israeli soldiers have used Palestinian families as human shields; attacking medical facilities, including the killing of 12 ambulance men in marked vehicles; and killing large numbers of police who had no military role.


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