ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) – First ladies from Middle Eastern countries on Saturday added their voices to international demands that Israel halt attacks on Gaza, withdraw troops and end its blockade.
Meeting in Istanbul, the wives of the leaders also made an emotional plea for international aid to help women and children in the stricken region.
“We, in the name of mothers who attach great importance to peace and human life, request that the international community press Israel to stop its attacks,” said the Turkish prime minister’s wife, Emine Erdogan, reading from a joint declaration issued at the end of their meeting. “Israel must abide by the U.N. resolution (calling for a
cease-fire). It must lift the embargo. Israel must immediately withdraw its forces from Gaza,” she said.
Jordan’s Queen Rania, Syria’s Asma Assad, Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned of Qatar and Lebanon’s Wafa Suleyman, were joined by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s daughter, Aisha, and the Pakistani prime minister’s wife, Fauzia Gilani, at the meeting held at a hotel on the shores of the Bosporus.
All wore white shawls, with the word “peace” inscribed in Turkish, Arabic and English, over their shoulders. Before reading out the joint declaration, Emine Erdogan denounced Israel’s attacks on Gaza, breaking into the tears as she recounted how children were caught up in the war. “They were killed while riding their bikes in parks. They sought refuge in schools but were killed there too. They were killed inside mosques. They were taken to hospitals but could not escape the death machines there either,” she said. “I am speaking and expressing my pain as a mother,” she said.
Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. A week later, ground troops moved in, with artillery and tank fire that has contributed to a surge in civilian casualties. Palestinian medical officials say more than 800 Palestinians have been killed.