* Ministerial meeting called after Israel attacks
* Qatar calls for humanitarian support for Gaza
* Ministers say Arab efforts made little difference in past
By Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad
CAIRO, Nov 17 Arab ministers gave their backing
on Saturday to Egyptian efforts to secure a truce that would end
Israel's offensive on Gaza, they said in a statement after an
Arab League meeting in Cairo.
Arab foreign ministers also agreed to form a delegation to
travel to the Palestinian enclave in a show of support. League
chief Nabil Elaraby told reporters he would lead the team and
that the trip was expected to take place in "one or two days".
Ministers meeting at the Cairo-based headquarters had said
Arab states had to take practical steps to support Palestinians
Israel launched a massive air campaign on Wednesday with the
declared goal of deterring Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group
that runs the Gaza Strip, from launching rockets that have
plagued its southern communities for years.
In the statement, ministers condemned what they called
Israeli "aggression" and also expressed "complete discontent" at
the U.N. Security Council's failure to bring about a ceasefire.
Ministers said they "decided to support the efforts exerted
by Egypt in coordination with the Palestinian state to stop the
Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip and ... reach a truce that
would result in an immediate end to all military actions".
Egypt had brokered an informal truce in October, which has
since collapsed. It now says it is seeking a new deal, with
President Mohamed Mursi saying on Saturday there were "some
indications" that a ceasefire could be reached soon but he had
no firm guarantees.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the League building,
some chanting for a "bombardment of Tel Aviv".
At the start of the Arab meeting, several ministers called
for active steps and voiced frustration at the failure of Arab
declarations or initiatives to make any difference in the past.
"Today we will issue a statement. What will it mean? It
won't mean anything," said Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad
bin Jassim al-Thani. "We need to do something practical for
those suffering, at least from a humanitarian point of view."
"I am not talking about war or military action ... I am
talking about offering support to our brothers in Palestine,"
Sheikh Hamad added. Qatar's emir pledged $400 million to help
develop Gaza during a visit there in October.
On Saturday, Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas government
buildings in the Palestinian territory, after Israel's cabinet
authorised the mobilisation of up to 75,000 reservists,
preparing for a possible ground invasion.
The Arab delegation visit to Gaza will follow trips by
Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesslem, who went on Saturday,
and Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, who travelled on
Friday, using his trip to condemn Israeli actions while pledging
to work for a truce.
Mursi held talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa
al-Thani and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on the Gaza
crisis and a range of issues.
Erdogan has been an outspoken critic of Israel, while the
Qatari emir's visit to Gaza in October broke the isolation of
the Palestinian group. Both arrived in Egypt earlier in the day.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was also in Cairo on Saturday to
discuss the Gaza crisis, a presidential source said.
A presidential source had said there would be four-way talks
between Mursi, the Qatari emir, the Turkish prime minister and
Meshaal. But the source later said a four-way meeting did not
take place, without giving a reason.
Meshaal held talks on Saturday with Egyptian security
officials on prospects for a truce, an Egyptian official told
Erdogan, whose trip was planned before the Gaza violence
surged, praised Egypt's decision to withdraw its ambassador from
Tel Aviv in response to Israel's attacks. Turkey withdrew its
envoy in 2010 over a separate incident.