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China calls on Israel to stop raids in Gaza

13 march 2012, 11:13
Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin. ©REUTERS/David Gray
Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin. ©REUTERS/David Gray
China on Monday urged Israel to stop air raids on Gaza and called on both sides for an immediate ceasefire after Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu vowed no let-up against rocket-firing militants, AFP reports.

Israel launched another spate of air strikes earlier Monday, bringing the death toll in Gaza to 20 in three days of tit-for-tat violence that began with Israel's killing of a senior militant on Friday.

"China is concerned about the escalation of the situation in Gaza," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular briefing.

"We call upon the Israeli side to stop air raids against Gaza. We hope parties concerned can stop firing immediately in order to avoid casualties of innocent civilians."

China's unusually strong reaction to the air raids comes ahead of a visit to Beijing by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday, when he will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi and other senior leaders.

The renewed strikes on Monday came after Netanyahu warned raids would continue "as long as necessary" and Hamas officials said efforts to broker a ceasefire through Egypt were not bearing fruit.

Violence in the region has spiked since Friday when Israeli jets raided the Gaza Strip, killing Zuhair al-Qaisi, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees militant group, and prompting barrages of Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state.

The Israeli army said Qaisi was involved in planning a deadly August 2011 attack in which militants sneaked across the border from Egypt's Sinai and killed eight in Israel's southern Negev desert.

It said he was planning a similar attack "in the coming days".

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