Israel's chief rabbis declared Thursday, traditionally a day for Jewish fasting, as a time for praying that the gulf crisis does not erupt into war.

"This day is for taking stock through repentance, prayer and a request for mercy," said Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira."That is the trouble facing the world - war or peace," he said.

Religious Jews normally fast on the day, the 10th of the Jewish month of Tevet, which mourns the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem 2,600 years ago.