Hamas urges EU to up pressure on Israel over Gaza

A029829214.jpgGAZA – Hamas called on the European Union on Friday to step up pressure on Israel to lift its economic and military blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist group.

“We urge the European Union not to limit its action to purely calling for an end to the siege but also to apply political and practical pressure on Israel,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said.

On Thursday, EU lawmakers urged Israel not to inflict “collective punishment” on Gaza’s population, saying its isolation of the territory had failed and its actions were endangering civilians.

Zuhri said Hamas welcomed the parliamentary resolution.

Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza last June after Hamas routed forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and seized control of the impoverished coastal territory. Israel said its tightened restrictions were in response to cross-border rocket fire by Gaza militants.

Israeli air strikes and ground incursions into the Gaza Strip have killed some 300 Palestinians in the past year, including dozens of civilians, but have failed to prevent rocket fire which killed two Israelis in the same period.

Shunned by the West for refusing to renounce violence after beating Abbas’s Fatah faction in a parliamentary election two years ago, Hamas says it would cease fire if Israel stopped its military operations in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Hamas is also demanding an end to the Israeli-led blockade that has cut supplies to the territory’s 1.5 million people.

“As for rockets, the problem is the (Israeli) occupation, aggression and the siege imposed on our people. We in Hamas are ready to study any initiative that could contribute to ending the Israeli aggression on our people,” Zuhri said.

The EU has thrown its support behind a proposal by Abbas’s government to take control of Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt to allow in supplies.

“We see initial signs of restlessness among the Europeans but nothing concrete,” said an Israeli government official.

EU lawmakers have no power over the bloc’s foreign policy.

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