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Iran Tells Egypt It Is Ready To Help Gaza Wounded

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has told Egypt it is ready to treat people wounded in the Israeli assault on Gaza and is seeking permission to set up a field hospital nearby, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has said.

Iranian officials have condemned Israel for its attacks and expressed support for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, criticizing what they say is the silence of some Arab states.

Egypt, the only Arab state to border Gaza, has been a focus for protests by hard-line Iranians who say Cairo has not done enough to help the Palestinians. Egypt has partly blamed Hamas for the violence because it failed to renew a truce with Israel.

Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki wrote to his Egyptian counterpart on January 4 outlining Iran's offer to treat wounded people from Gaza, ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference in Tehran.

He said the letter expressed "Iran's readiness for receiving and treating the wounded at hospitals."

Qashqavi said the letter also "asked for the cooperation of Egypt for setting up an Islamic Republic field hospital and its medical team on the nearest point to Gaza at the recommendation of the Egyptian government."

"We are awaiting response to this demand," he said.

Israel launched aerial bombardments on December 27 to curtail Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza then sent in ground troops on January 3. At least 512 Palestinians have been killed, at least one-quarter of them civilians, a UN agency said.

Iran does not recognize Israel's right to exist and does not have full relations with Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt sometimes allows wounded people and medical supplies through its border with the Gaza Strip but the crossing has been closed to ordinary traffic since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.