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Tunisia diplomat in Gaza



Gaza: Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem crossed into Gaza on Saturday for a solidarity visit, a Hamas spokesman said, as Israeli air strikes pounded the Palestinian enclave. "The Tunisian delegation led by Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem has arrived in Gaza and is en route to the headquarters of the government destroyed by the occupation this morning, where he will meet with government officials," interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said.

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya would receive Abdessalem, he added, but declined to offer details on where. Shahwan said the delegation would "visit Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to check on those wounded in the Israeli aggression and see the situation". As the Tunisian delegation arrived, Israeli warplanes kept up their bombardment of the Gaza Strip on the fourth day of violence that began with the targeting killing of a Hamas commander.

Morning raids killed at least eight, and levelled the government headquarters where Haniya had on Friday received Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil on his own solidarity visit with a delegation from Cairo. The Tunisian presidency announced the delegation's trip on Saturday. "The presidency of the republic has informed the president of the government in Gaza that a high-level delegation headed by the foreign minister and including the (Tunisian) president's chief of staff will be sent to Gaza tomorrow," it said.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki spoke with Haniya to "learn the latest developments on the ground in Gaza, which has been subject to Israeli aggression for several days," the  statement said. He expressed "Tunisia's solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people" and denounced "a barbaric aggression by Israeli aviation" and the "international silence that encourages such injustice."

Marzouki also called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council and adoption of the "necessary sanctions against Israel." Ruling party Ennahda and several others are demanding that the "criminalisation of normalised relations" with Israel be written into the country's new constitution. Tunisia has had close links with the Palestinians for years, hosting the Palestine Liberation Organisation between 1982 and 1994 after it was expelled from Lebanon.

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