Tuesday, January 27, 2009

EU official says Gaza destruction "abominable"

JABALIYA, Gaza Strip (AFP) — A senior EU official touring Gaza on Monday blasted the "abominable" destruction in the enclave and said its "terrorist" Hamas rulers bear overwhelming responsibility for the war. "It is abominable, indescribable," Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, told reporters in Gaza after touring some of the worst-hit places of Israel's deadly 22-day assault on the territory.

"At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," he said. "I intentionally say this here -- Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such."

"In order for the EU to relaunch a political dialogue with a minimal chance of succeeding and a chance of moving forward towards peace, Hamas must accept the two little conditions that were put to it -- one, the right of Israel to exist and two that it abandon the armed struggle, the terrorist dimension of its approach."

Blasting the scale of destruction in Gaza, Michel said the European Union, the main donor to the Palestinians, was sick of paying for the same infrastructure that's destroyed over and over again.

"Public opinion is fed up to see that we are paying over and over again -- be it the (European) commission, the member states or the major donors -- for infrastructure that will be systematically destroyed," said Michel, known for his critical comments about Israel.

He said the bloc had approved nearly 60 additional million euros in aid to Palestinians in the wake of the Gaza offensive.

"Since 2000, Europe has spent three billion euros in Palestine," he said. "Every year, we spend 600 to 700 million euros. Today we decided on a supplementary payment of 60 million euros.

Thirty-two million euros would be allocated to Gaza, 20 to the West Bank and six million to the refugees, he said.

"All we do is pay. You know very well that from time to time we pay several times for the same infrastructure that is regularly demolished."

"Europe is doing all that it can, but unfortunately it cannot do any more. Show me a political body or an institution that is more engaged than Europe in helping the people of Palestine, because I'm not aware of one.

He said reconstruction was going to be difficult, voiced hope of a "sustainable and durable ceasefire" around the territory and urged Israel to open Gaza's border crossings to facilitate rebuilding efforts.

"It goes well beyond what I imagined. I didn't doubt that it would be serious. It is going to be extremely difficult to reconstruct and it will no doubt cost an enormous amount of money to bring people to decent living conditions," he said.

Israel must open Gaza's border crossings, which have been sealed to all but basic humanitarian aid since the Islamist Hamas, sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, seized power in the territory in June 2007.

"The access really must be complete and not just medicine and food, we need goods in order to restart the minimal economic activity -- including fuel, spare parts, cement, all that will little by little permit a rebuilding of minimal living conditions," said Michel.

Michel planned to travel to Israel later on Monday.


מח' מידע ואינטרנט – אגף תקשורת
26 ינואר 2009

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