By Amos Harel and Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose Arab country was the first to sign a peace treaty with Israel, warned Monday that the entire Middle East peace process could collapse because of Israel’s fighting in Lebanon.
“Egypt, which triggered the peace process, warns of the consequences of its collapse,” Mubarak said in a nationwide televised statement. “The Israeli aggression undermines the opportunities to continue it.”
He added: “There is an urgent need for an unconditional cease-fire which would pave the way for international efforts to end the crisis and deal with its consequences.”
Mubarak is under domestic fire from opposition groups for his refusal to revoke Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. His statement came a day after Israel’s deadliest attack on Lebanon since fighting broke out July 12 between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas. The air strike Sunday on the southern Lebanese village of Qana killed at least 56 people – more than half of them children – and sparked outrage across the Arab world.
Mubarak said Monday he had told Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit to increase Egypt’s diplomatic endeavors to defuse the crisis.
And, of course, on the Israeli side:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday evening that there would be no cease-fire in the coming days, despite a 48-hour halt in Israel Air Force activity in Lebanon.
“The fighting continues. There is no ceasefire and there will not be any ceasefire in the coming days,” Olmert said in an address to the nation from Tel Aviv. He said the offensive in southern Lebanon would end when the rockets fired by Hezbollah cease and the two Israel Defense Forces soldiers abducted on July 12 are returned.
“We will stop the war when the [rocket] threat is removed…, our captive soldiers return home in peace, and you are able to live in safety and security,” Olmert said, addressing the mayors of northern towns.
He also warned that Israel still faced “no small number of days of fighting.”
“We should be ready for pain, tears and blood,” he said. “Missiles and rockets will still land in Israel in the coming days.”