GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli leaders decided to reject an immediate 48-hour pause in fighting and push ahead with the devastating air offensive against Hamas, sending jets and assault helicopters to pound targets in the Gaza Strip for a fifth day Wednesday.Egypt is caught up in the Arab backlash.
Israel is facing growing international pressure to halt the assault and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed a cease-fire proposal — floated by France's foreign minister — with his foreign and defense ministers overnight. The meeting ended with a decision to continue operations, government officials said, and a top forum of Cabinet ministers entrusted with security matters will discuss the continued offensive Wednesday.
The fault lines
CAIRO, Egypt — The Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip has unleashed outrage across the Middle East — but the anger is being vented as much against Egypt as it is at Israel.
Protesters have attacked Egyptian embassies, accusing Cairo of helping Israel's longtime blockade of the territory and even giving a green light for the offensive — a sign of the gulf between an Arab public and some U.S.-allied governments that dislike Gaza's Hamas rulers.
Demonstrators broke into the Egyptian consulate in the Yemeni city of Aden on Tuesday, trashing the interior, throwing computers out windows and burning the Egyptian flag on the roof. More than 500 protesters massed outside Egypt's embassy in Syria, as others did days earlier in Lebanon.
During a demonstration in the Lebanese city of Sidon this week, people chanted slogans denouncing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as "a pig" and a "collaborator" with Israel.
But the clamor over Gaza has underlined an increasing divide in the Middle East that pits pro-Western countries like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Syria and Iran and their allied militant groups, Hamas and Hezbollah.
In an unusually vocal criticism for an Egyptian politician, Abdullah Kamal, a member of Egypt's ruling party, denounced Hamas on Monday as a pawn of Iran, saying Iran and Syria are trying to make "Iran as the leader of the region through its militias, whether Hezbollah or Hamas."