HONG KONG, Jan 5, 2009 (AFP) - International media expressed dismay Monday over the dramatic escalation of Israel's Gaza offensive and condemned the world's failure to formulate a diplomatic response.
As Israeli troops battled Hamas fighters in Gaza, newspapers from London to Sydney lamented the 10-day attack which has left hundreds dead and voiced fears it had torpedoed attempts to build a lasting peace.
The Financial Times said Israel was taking a "dangerous gamble" that would probably cut the number of rockets fired from Gaza, "but if Israel proposes to cut the heart out of its most implacable Palestinian opponents, it will fail."
London's Independent said international calls for a ceasefire must offer something more concrete than "hand-wringing platitudes," and that any solution "would have to have Israel's security as its bottom line."
The populist Daily Mail said Israel could be forgiven for taking action against Hamas but warned: "The longer the bloodshed goes on, the more perilous it will be for a lasting peace."
With French President Nicolas Sarkozy due to arrive in Israel for talks, Le Figaro said the work needed to repair the situation after the assault was "beyond the ability of any one man or nation."
L'Humanite meanwhile said "Israel's hawks want to transform Gaza into a giant tomb -- a tomb for its people and innocent children, but also for the very idea of a Palestinian state."
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's leading dailies, said the ground attack launched Saturday "clearly represents a dangerous escalation that is erasing all hope of a rapid ceasefire."
The broadsheet questioned whether there is any "serious and sufficiently credible mediator who can influence both sides" in the conflict.
Germany's Tageszeitung also expressed fears that Israel would create a new generation of militants with its offensive.
"There's a real fear that the war in the Gaza Strip will radicalize the next generation of Palestinians -- and that it will be Al-Qaeda that eventually takes over from Hamas," it said.
La Tribune in Algeria took issue with the UN Security Council's failure late Saturday to agree on even a statement against the Israeli operation.
"What keeps today's Arab nations from pulling out of the United Nations, even if that is only a symbolic gesture?" it said.
Italy's La Stampa also joined calls for Europe to take action to halt the crisis.
"Now more than ever, Europe needs to forge a common strategy and then intervene in a difficult crisis that is exploding not far from its doorstep," it said.
Meanwhile Pakistan's influential Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt said: "The time has come for the Arab and Islamic world to jointly sever all ties with Israel."
The Australian newspaper said Israel's assault appeared to be using military force as "one among other weapons in the diplomatic arsenal" but was still taking an enormous risk.
"Despite Israel's overwhelming advantages in equipment and expertise, it is impossible to imagine that this move will bring a lasting peace," it said.
Peru's leading paper, El Comercio, said "hell has come to Gaza" and that one day Israel as well as Hamas "will have to face a day of reckoning."
At least 517 Palestinians, including 87 children, have been killed and more than 2,500 wounded since Israel unleashed "Operation Cast Lead" against Hamas on December 27, according to Gaza medics.