Brazil’s Lula, in Egypt, denounces Gaza war

Brazil’s Lula, in Egypt, denounces Gaza war

CAIRO (AFP): Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva denounced Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip Thursday as “collective punishment” after meeting his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.

On his second trip to Egypt and his first during his current term, Lula spoke to an Arab League meeting discussing the situation in the Palestinian territory which has been devastated by more than four months of war.

“We must put an end to this inhumanity and cowardice. Stop the collective punishment,” the Brazilian leader said in a speech to the gathering.

International warnings have grown in response to Israel’s military campaign, as vast swathes of Gaza have been levelled, with most of the territory’s population displaced and pushed to the brink of starvation.

Concern has mounted after Israel vowed to push ahead with a major operation in Gaza’s southern-most city of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians remain trapped.

“The most urgent task is to establish a definitive ceasefire that allows humanitarian aid to be provided sustainably and freely and the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages” held by Hamas, Lula added.

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

At least 28,663 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military offensive in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Around 250 people were abducted by militants during the October 7 attack and taken into Gaza, Israeli officials say. Some 130 are still held captive, including 29 who are believed to be dead.

“There can be no peace until there is a Palestinian state, with mutually agreed and internationally recognised borders, including the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with east Jerusalem as its capital,” Lula said in his address to the Arab League.

The Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration and a small group of Arab nations are working on a comprehensive peace plan which includes a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But the proposal was slammed by Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, both extreme-right settlers living in the occupied West Bank.

In November, Lula accused Israel of committing the “equivalent of terrorism” in Gaza by killing innocent women and children in its war against Hamas.

Both Lula and Sisi were also expected to discuss “joint coordination in international forums”, Egyptian presidential spokesman Ahmed Fahmy said in a statement.

The Brazilian leader’s visit to Egypt coincides with the 100th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, both members of the BRICS grouping of major emerging economies.