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German Press Agency::NGOs tell EU to press Israel on full lifting of Gaza embargo


NGOs tell EU to press Israel on full lifting of Gaza embargo
   Brussels (dpa) - The European Union should insist on a full
lifting of the embargo on Gaza, making clear to Israel that current
plans to soften the blockade are not enough to warrant EU support,
experts from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said Friday.

   After being stung with a barrage of international criticism for
its late May strike on a flotilla trying to defy its embargo on the
Hamas-run enclave, which resulted in nine dead, Israel announced a
softening of its policy, saying it would let in more civilian goods.

   But in a rare visit to Brussels from a Gaza-based NGO activist,
Mahmoud Abu Rahma from the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights told
reporters that ”the measures that have been announced are not
expected to have much impact on the ground.

   He insisted that the blockade is a form of collective punishment
on the Palestinian population in Gaza, a measure explicitly banned by
international law.

   Israel says its embargo policy is necessary to isolate Hamas, a
radical Islamist movement, recognised as a terrorist organisation by
the European Union and the United States, which seized control of
Gaza in 2007.

   Sari Bashi, director of the Israeli NGO Gisha, called for an end
to export restrictions and a move towards a policy of ”individual
security checks,” paving the way for free movement of goods and
people in and out of Gaza.

   If the EU supported anything less by Israel, NGO activists
suggested, it would be abetting an ”illegal” policy.

   ”The EU can't be part of the blockade, there cannot be any EU
presence on the ground unless the blockade is lifted,” said Nathalie
Stanus from the Brussels-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights

   EU foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels on July 26, and
are expected to discuss ways to encourage Israel to loosen its grip
on Gaza.

   Bashi insisted the EU had sufficient leverage to make its demands
heard, despite the fact that its past denouncements of the Gaza siege
have not had an impact on Israel.

   ”I am concerned that the EU is underestimating its power,” she

   But a European diplomat told the German Press Agency that Israel
is likely to announce practical measures on easing the Gaza blockade
only after a July 6 visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the
White House, suggesting that the US is still the key power broker in
the region.

dpa alv hl 

Tags / #crossings