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Amnesty Urges Spain To Halt Arms Sale To Israel

InternationalFew hours after Amnesty International urged his government to stop arms sale to Israel, Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Palestinian counterpart Ahmad Qorei condemned Wednesday, May 19, Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

\"Peace requires an immediate ceasefire,\" the leaders said in turn at a press conference after an Israeli airstrike killed at least 10 Palestinians in Rafah, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Zapatero lambasted Israel for embarking on actions that would lead down \"a negative path for peace.\"

\"Peace requires a ceasefire, respecting the roadmap and this is what the Spanish government is calling for and what the international community wants,\" he said.

Qorei, for his part, accused the Israeli government of not wanting a peace settlement in the region.

\"These crimes which are being committed against our people on a daily basis ...show that that there is no desire for peace on the part of the Israeli government,\" he said.

Arms Sale

The statements came a few hours after the London-based human rights watchdog urged the new Spanish government to suspend the sale of weapons used by Israel to \"commit unlawful destruction of homes and other human rights violations\".

Zapatero\'s government should halt the sale of arms and military equipment worth 14 million euros to Israel, AI\'s representative Beltran Esteban said Tuesday, May 18.

If taken, this would be a decisive political message against Israeli military practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, he asserted.

AI said in an earlier report on May 14 that there are major weaknesses, omissions and loopholes in the existing European arms export controls that allow the export of armored vehicles to Israel despite their use against civilians.

\'War Crimes\'

In a report entitled \"Israel and the Occupied Territories,\" AI pressed other countries, particularly the U.S., to stop the sale or transfer of weaponry and equipment to Israel.

The Israeli army has launched a demolition campaign on the southern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah, which the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said has already left more than 1,000 Rafah residents homeless since late last week.

On Sunday, May 16, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the occupation military bulldozers could continue their demolitions , which it said have been carried out for \"justifiable operational reasons\".

But the Amnesty report questioned the claim, saying the demolitions \"are often carried out as collective punishments for Palestinian attacks or to facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.\"

\"Both practices contravene international law and some of these acts are war crimes,\" the it said.

\"The grounds invoked by Israel to justify the destruction are overly broad and based on discriminatory policies and practices.\"

In recent years the Israeli army demolished thousands of homes and properties as well as vast areas of agricultural land in the occupied territories.

Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been made homeless or have lost their source of livelihood. Many more live in fear that they will be next.

Zapatero had vowed following his Socialist Party\'s election win last month to pull Spanish troops from Iraq unless they come under U.N. command by June 30 when their mandate expires.

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