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World recoils at Gaza assault

AFP

A wounded Palestinian youth is carried into a hospital in Gaza City on Sunday.

PARIS - Israel's tank and troop assault on the Gaza Strip unleashed cries of alarm worldwide Sunday, but Israel won heavyweight US backing and moves for an immediate ceasefire foundered at the United Nations.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoed grave European concerns when he said the ground offensive was a "very dangerous moment" in the conflict, and he called for increased efforts to rapidly secure a ceasefire.

The offensive was condemned across the Middle East, with Egypt saying the UN Security Council's silence on Israel's eight-day campaign of airstrikes had effectively given Israel "a green light" for the ground assault.

Asian nations expressed alarm, too, with Pakistan and China calling for an immediate end to the assault and Muslims in Indonesia urging war against the Jewish state.

As thousands of Israeli soldiers and scores of tanks pushed Sunday into Gaza, the British prime minister said assurances needed to be given to both the Israelis and Hamas to secure a ceasefire.

"I think everybody around the world is expressing grave concerns. What we've got to do almost immediately is to work harder than we've done for an immediate ceasefire," Brown said on BBC television.

"I can see the Gaza issues for the Palestinians - that they need humanitarian aid - but the Israelis must have some assurance that there are no rocket attacks coming into Israel," he said.

"So first, we need an immediate ceasefire, and that includes a stopping of the rockets into Israel."

Russia dispatched President Dmitry Medvedev's special envoy for the Middle East, Alexander Saltanov, to the region, hoping it could help bring about a ceasefire, while EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said European nations stand ready to contribute international monitors to help keep the peace.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Israel's incursion into the impoverished territory was in "brazen defiance" of international calls to end the offensive - and he blamed the Security Council for failing to act.

"The Security Council's silence and its failure to take a decision to stop Israel's aggression since it began was interpreted by Israel as a green light," he said.

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