Yudhoyono urges both sides in Gaza to reach ceasefire

Yudhoyono urges both sides in Gaza to reach ceasefire
The situation in Gaza could lead to the growth of radical groups in Indonesia and elsewhere, says Dr Yudhoyono.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is appealing to world leaders and the leaders of Hamas and Israel to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

In an open letter released yesterday, he wrote that as the president of the nation with the world's largest Muslim population, he could no longer remain silent about what he described as a "humanitarian tragedy and unbearable human misery".

"The screams of mothers who lost their children, as well as cries of helpless children who suddenly lost their parents, shook me to my deepest soul," he wrote of the bloodshed in Gaza.

He called for a truce that would "end the indiscriminate military operations which are adding more casualties each passing hour".

"With this ceasefire, it means that the Israeli strikes through air, sea and land will have to stop. Likewise, the rockets launched from Hamas side must be ended, in order to avoid retaliatory action or vicious circle of violence," he wrote.

The letter was e-mailed to The Straits Times yesterday by his spokesman, Dr Teuku Faizasyah.  

Dr Yudhoyono's call comes as President-elect Joko Widodo and his defeated rival, Mr Prabowo Subianto, said in recent weeks that they would push for the creation of an independent Palestine.

The conflict in Gaza has aroused considerable passion in Indonesia. Developments there feature prominently in television news bulletins and protests took place in major Indonesian cities before the Hari Raya Puasa break.

Some 90 per cent of Indonesia's 250 million population follow Islam, but most accept the secular nature of the state.

There were communal conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Sulawesi and Maluku more than a decade ago, but the government brokered peace deals.

Indonesia has seen a rise in the number of radicals as a minority resort to violence to counter what they see as injustices committed by the West against Muslims in places such as the Middle East.

"The situation (in Gaza) can lead to the growth of radical groups - in my country and possibly in other countries as well - who feel dejected and humiliated, and compelled to pursue their own course of actions to fight for justice," Dr Yudhoyono wrote.

On Tuesday alone, residents of Gaza delivered more than 100 corpses to morgues after intense Israeli fire. That brought the number of Palestinians killed in the assault that began on July 8 to more than 1,200, with 7,000 injured, according to Agence France-Presse news agency.

Israel stepped up its artillery fire, reportedly targeting central Gaza's Bureij refugee camp, and later Jabaliya in the north and Rafah in the south.

"With all this, as Indonesia's leader," Dr Yudhoyono wrote, "I propose that in the coming days, or hours, the decision-makers on international peace and security, particularly those in the UN Security Council, including those with veto rights, and the key countries in the Middle East, sit together and work out ways to impose a ceasefire."

He also reiterated Indonesia's support for the right of Palestinians to independence and statehood, emphasising that it would help to end the enduring conflict.

He wrote: "The conflict between the two nations will be ended, in my opinion, when Palestine's independence becomes a reality and Israel will no longer feel threatened by it."

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