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Sri Lanka gov't expresses support for proposed Gaza ceasefire

COLOMBO, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Sri Lanka's government says it is " deeply concerned" by the ongoing violence in Gaza and has called for support of a ceasefire, the External Affairs Ministry said on Wednesday while thousands of Maldivians joined a protest rally.

The call comes as the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas has rejected an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, according to its official website.

"Sri Lanka is deeply concerned at the recent escalating violence in Gaza, resulting in tragic loss of civilian lives and extensive damage to property. Cross-border provocation on locations in parts of Israel also need to cease," the statement released by the External Affairs Ministry said.

Sri Lanka's government called upon the parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint in a bid to halt the violence and ensure a climate conducive to the recommencement of negotiations for a lasting solution to the conflict.

"Sri Lanka calls upon the parties to engage at the earliest in direct dialogue which is the only viable initiative for sustained peace and security in the region," it added.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa also conveyed his condolences to his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas over the deceased in Gaza in a telephone call to Abbas on Sunday when Rajapaksa inquired about the escalating tensions between the two countries that has cost near two hundred lives.

Neighbor Maldives also supports a ceasefire and has been critical of the Israeli aggression.

Thousands of Maldivians took to the streets of capital Male on Tuesday to protest situation in Gaza, local media outlet Haveeru reported.

The protestors were carrying placards and banners with anti- Israel slogans, posters showing the atrocities being committed by Israel and Palestinian flags.

"They called for an immediate end to the Israeli air strikes on Gaza, a boycott of goods manufactured by Israeli companies and the "demise" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," Haveeru reported on its website.

Some protestors also burnt down Israeli flags.

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