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Swiss protest Israeli strikes

This week has seen the bloodiest fighting in 17 months of conflict Keystone

The government has told Israel it "deplores" reprisals carried out on Palestinian targets in the West Bank - 100 metres from the Swiss liaison office.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador, Ygal Antebi, on Thursday to express its “deep concern” following a wave of Israeli strikes against Palestinian targets close to the Swiss liaison office in Ramallah.

Franz von Däniken, secretary of state for foreign affairs, told Antebi that Switzerland wanted to see Israel “do everything within its power” to stop the current spiral of violence and re-establish a dialogue with the Palestinians.

“Switzerland deplores the large increase in the number of violent incidents during the last few weeks which have resulted in an alarming number of dead and wounded people as well as in the destruction of a considerable amount of civilian infrastructure,” said the ministry in a statement.

The Swiss also called on Israel to immediately cease its military operations in the cities of Gaza and Ramallah. They said that under the Oslo agreements both cities must remain under the exclusive control of the Palestinian Authority.

Missile strike

Nicholas Lang, the Swiss representative to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, told swissinfo he had been inside the liaison office when Israeli missiles struck the headquarters of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, just 700 metres away.

“Precisely at the same time very close to this office – roughly 100 metres away – a building was hit by two missiles shot from an Apache helicopter,” he confirmed.

Lang added that the handful of Swiss and local employees manning the office were concerned about their personal safety but he insisted they would continue their work.

“We think that it is important that we are here, that we see what is going on as a neutral observer and report about what we see,” he said.

“We are not that intimidated or worried. We take precautionary measures, we are quite well protected and we do, of course, avoid some areas, some hotspots where we simply don’t go because there are good chances something could happen.”

Israeli reprisals

The second successive day of fierce Israeli reprisals against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip came in response to Tuesday’s killing of six Israeli soldiers in a Palestinian ambush.

At least 38 Palestinians and ten Israelis have been killed since Monday, marking the heaviest sustained violence in 17 months of fighting.

In a televised address to his people on Thursday evening, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, repeated that there would be no peace negotiations until there was an end to Palestinian violence and attacks.

by Adam Beaumont and Vanessa Mock with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR