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Cablegate: Special Media Reaction Report: Events in Gaza

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0909/01 3641143
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291143Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5721
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 7480
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 5042
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3785
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 8035
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 2268
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 5671
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1628
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7650

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000909

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ELA, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR VOA NEWS CA,
NEA/PPD, IIP/G/NEA-SA MRUSSELL
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: SPECIAL MEDIA REACTION REPORT: EVENTS IN GAZA
DECEMBER 28 - 29, 2008

Summary: For the past two days, all Syrian media focused coverage on
the "Israeli aggression in Gaza and the Arab silence and
collaboration in this crime." Headlines emphasized the magnitude of
human suffering in Gaza. Syria's only private newspaper published on
12/29 a special section dedicated
to Gaza, dominated by graphic
photos of the dead and injured. Syrian TV cancelled all
entertainment programming to provide minute-by-minute coverage of
the Gaza incursion. Of particular note was that public statements by
the Syrian government, opposition (banned and permitted), and human
rights community were almost identical in their condemnation of the
Israeli incursion. Also noteworthy was the rare congruity between
Syrian media statements and actual public opinion. End Summary.

--------------------------------------
Government and Opposition in Agreement
--------------------------------------

In a statement carried by the official SANA news agency, an unnamed
official source said that Syria "follows, with deep concern, the
brutal Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza and
stresses that what is going on is a heinous crime and convicted
terrorist act."

"Syria condemns this appalling crime and calls on the Arab nations
and the international community to use all available means to
pressure Israel to stop this aggression immediately, allow the
transfer of the injured and insure them medical care, and open all
crossings to allow access of foodstuffs and health needs to the
besieged Palestinian people."

An editorial in government-owned daily Tishreen accused "certain
Arab leaders" of considering Israel a strategic ally and helping it
to annihilate the resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon. The
pro-government Champress website accused Egyptian and Saudi leaders
of collaborating with Israel. Papers and Syrian private TV station
al-Dunya carried extensive coverage of Hassan Nasrallah's speech in
Beirut on 12/28 in which he called on all Arabs and Muslims to adopt
a unified position on Gaza and called on the Egyptian people and
military to open up the Rafah crossing.

Syrian media highlighted President Bashar al Assad's diplomatic
efforts as the current chair of the Arab League. Print and
electronic media reported that Assad called for an emergency Arab
summit to discuss Gaza and spoke by phone with the leaders of Qatar,
Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Algeria.

Syrian opposition websites and media also condemned the "Israeli
massacre" in Gaza. The Damascus Declaration (DD), the major
opposition group inside Syria, was the first to issue a strong
statement on December 27 condemning the aggression in Gaza and
calling upon all Palestinian factions to unite in the face of these
attacks.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), an opposition group based in
Paris and headed by former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim
Khaddam, issued a statement 12/28 condemning the aggression and
calling on Arab governments to intervene to end the Israeli
aggression.

The Muslim Brotherhood (banned in Syria) also issued a separate
statement on its website condemning the "brutal massacre which has
been committed by the Zionist enemy." The statement called upon the
Arab peoples and the Syrian people "in Damascus, Homs, Hama and
Aleppo" as well as "in the plains, mountains and countryside" to
take to the streets to express solidarity with "our people" in
Gaza.

All human rights groups in Syria issued statements condemning
Israeli actions in Gaza and calling on the international community
to intervene to "pressure Israel to halt its aggression." The
statements also demanded that Arab governments "end their silence
and impartial position on the aggression and have a unified position
vis-`-vis what is happening in Gaza."

-----------------------------------------
An End to Syrian-Israeli Indirect Talks
----------------------------------------


Semi-independent Al Watan reported that according to an unnamed
senior Syrian official, Syria has suspended indirect peace talks
with Israel in response to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. "The
Israeli aggression on Gaza closes the door to the movement for a
peaceful political settlement
," the official said.

--------------------
Protests in Syria
-------------------

Thousands of Syrians staged a mass demonstration Sunday in Damascus
to protest the Israeli raids. The demonstrators, who came from a
variety of political, economic, social and religious backgrounds,
carried banners and chanted slogans of support for the Palestinian
people, the official SANA news agency reported.

The protestors urged those Arab countries with diplomatic relations
with Israel to sever their ties and expel Israeli ambassadors. They
burned American and Israeli flags and called on the international
community to force Israel to "end the bloodshed and lift the unjust
siege imposed on the Gaza Strip." "Victory belongs to heroic Gaza,"
one banner said. "Until when will the Arab silence continue?" read
another.

Papers reported also that large crowds of Palestinian refugees in
Yermouk and al-Neirab Camps in Damascus and Aleppo demonstrated on
Saturday in protest against Israeli actions. Protestors marched
through the two camps, calling for Palestinian national unity and
solidarity and chanting slogans against what they termed "this crime
against humanity." The demonstrators condemned Arab and
international silence over the "ferocious crime" and called on the
international community to stop "these hostile practices."
CONNELLY

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