CAIRO, Egypt – Israel's military campaign will not produce security for its people, but will yield only the hatred of 300 million Arabs, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Thursday.
In an address to the nation on Egyptian television, Mubarak accused the Israeli government of ignoring international resolutions and his repeated warniestinians from their increasingly angry citizens.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in demonstrations across the Arab world Thursday against the Israeli offensive in the Palestinian territories. Israel's campaign seeks to crush Palestinian militants after a wave of suicide bombings and attacks on Israeli civilians.
Jordan's Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher flew to Washington on Thursday, saying: "The United States is the only side which can influence the Israeli government to withdraw from the Palestinian territories."
Arab foreign ministers are expected to meet at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the matter.
In his first public response to the Israeli offensive, which began last Friday, Mubarak said: "It is time for the Israeli government to courageously face up to its inability to provide security for its people with military might. It is also time for Israel to admit that its continuous presence in the Palestinian territories is an occupation and a usurpation of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."
Mubarak said the offensive will only deepen "the sentiment of hatred of some 300 million Arabs toward the state of Israel and those who support its current policies."
He said he had written two letters to President Bush urging his administration to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting because Washington bears a "special responsibility" owing to its position as co-sponsor with Russia of the peace process.
Less than an hour after Mubarak's speech, Bush announced in Washington that he was sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East in a new push for peace.
Early Arab reaction was cool to Bush's announcement, which also called on Israel to begin withdrawing from Palestinian towns.
"The American speech is nothing but one to absorb the resentment, the atmosphere in the Arab and international street ... and to buy time," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told reporters in Beirut, Lebanon, as he left a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hariri said he doubted "Israel will listen to an opinion calling for moderation and withdrawal."
Egypt said Wednesday it was limiting contacts with Israel to those that would "serve the Palestinian cause," a measure meant to underline its anger with Israel without closing a channel of negotiation. Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania are the only Arab countries to have relations with Israel.
Muasher has said Jordan would not cut ties with Israel because it would "set a precedent for Israel to retreat from its commitments and agreements with Arab countries and the Palestinians."
In the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon on Thursday, up to 30,000 people — mostly schoolchildren and university students — waved Palestinian flags and burned U.S. and Israeli flags and an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"To Jerusalem we are going, martyrs by the million!" they shouted.
Some 5,000 demonstrators staged a similar demonstration in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh.
In southern Egypt, some 3,000 students and professors demonstrated on the campus of Aswan University, burning the Israeli flag and pictures of Sharon.
In downtown Cairo, some 200 protesters gathered outside one of the few remaining synagogues in Egypt, shouting anti-Israeli slogans and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.
At Cairo airport, 40 Egyptian pilots staged a protest in which they demanded the cessation of flights to Tel Aviv to alleviate the "psychological suffering" of crews who work that route.
In Syria, thousands marched in Damascus chanting anti-Israeli slogans and shouting: "You, Arab leaders, stop the massacres against the Palestinian people!"
And in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, hundreds of Arab and Jewish demonstrators protested U.S. support for Israeli military operations in the West Bank, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans outside the American Embassy.