EU Reconsiders Gaza, Hamas Policy

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – European countries are piling pressures on Israel over the severe humanitarian crisis unfolding in the besieged Gaza Strip, while the European Parliament adopted Thursday, February 21, a resolution calling Israel to lift the blockade.

"We’ve expressed our concern about the limitation of fuel and electricity supplies, which we don’t think is helpful and could compound the humanitarian crisis in Gaza," an EU official told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"We’re in favor of opening up crossings into Gaza, particularly Rafah (with Egypt) and Karni."

Israel tightened a strict two-year-old siege on Gaza when Hamas seized control of the territory from Palestinian President Mahmous Abbas’s Fatah group.

The Israeli army completely sealed the Strip, home to 1.6 million, banning shipments of fuel, food, and medicine into the strip.

Gaza lockdown has triggered a severe humanitarian crisis, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to storm the closed borders with Egypt to stock up on desperately-needed supplies.

The European Parliament adopted Thursday a resolution calling on Israel to lift the blockade and allow movement in and out of the impoverished coastal strip.

MEPs stressed that the Israeli policy of isolating the Gaza Strip has failed "at both the political and humanitarian level."

The resolution asked Israel to cease military action killing and endangering Palestinian civilians as well as extrajudicial targeted killings.

Human Rights Watch said in its January report that Israel’s crippling blockade is a collective punishment of the civilian population of the small, overcrowded territory.

Rethinking Hamas

Israeli officials admitted increasing European pressure to end the nine-month closure of the Gaza Strip.

"EU ministers are expressing growing concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the lack of progress in the peace talks," an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Our embassies in Europe report increasing pressure to try to end the blockade."

Several Israeli ambassadors in report have been warning their government of a changing mood in Europe over Gaza, and possibly Hamas, according to Haaretz.

"This activity is in keeping with the European culture espousing concern for humanitarian issues," Israel’s European Union ambassador Ran Koriel wrote in a sharp telegram to the Foreign Ministry.

"It is even graver in view of the feeling in Europe that Israel and the Palestinians are not succeeding in changing the situation on the ground and not progressing in the peace talks."

Israel and the US have recently aborted a Swiss initiative for an international meeting to propose a plan to open Gaza borders.

Koriel further reported that the French government was reexamining its attitude toward Hamas.

During a recent visit to Israel, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner proposed mediating between Israel and Hamas for a ceasefire agreement.

He also pressured Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to open the border passes in the Strip.

The EU does not recognize the Hamas-led government in Gaza and designate the group as terrorist group.

( and agencies)

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