EU representative calls for lifting Israeli blockade on Gaza amid ongoing ceasefire efforts
A European Union official called on Tuesday for the lifting of a crippling Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip which has been in place for fifteen years, also saying that a unified Palestinian government should be formed in order for reconstruction of the besieged territory to begin.
"These steps are not European Union conditions to the reconstruction [of Gaza], but a logical path to start this process," Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, the European Union representative for the Palestinian territories said, according to the Anadolu news agency.
He added that “democratic elections” should be held and praised Egyptian efforts to shore up a recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza following a deadly Israeli assault on the territory which left 254 Palestinians dead and hundreds more injured.
Von Burgsdorff visited areas of Gaza hit by Israeli airstrikes and met representatives of civil society groups on his trip to the besieged territory, Anadolu reported.
A UN delegation, headed by Tor Wennesland, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process is also in Gaza and will meet with Hamas leaders.
Egypt has promised $500 million for the reconstruction of Gaza and its intelligence chief recently visited the territory for talks with Hamas leaders, while on Sunday Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi visited Cairo.
The 15-year Israeli blockade has had a devastating effect on Gaza’s population, causing shortages of essential goods and plunging tens of thousands of people into poverty and unemployment.
Many of the Gaza Strip’s residential areas have also been severely damaged by Israel’s repeated wars against the territory.
On Monday, Egypt and Gaza’s Hamas ruling authorities announced that Egypt would be building a new residential neighbourhood in Al-Zahra, south of Gaza, with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar laying the neighbourhood’s foundation stone together.