EU diplomats want Israel’s Gaza blockade lifted

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More than 20 senior European diplomats visited Gaza Tuesday, calling for the Israeli blockade on the impoverished Palestinian enclave to be lifted.

Ambassadors from 22 European Union states visited to assess the state of Gaza’s reconstruction in a trip organised and led by the EU.

It was the first such delegation since late 2014, which took place after that summer’s devastating 50-day war with Israel left 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead, according to the United Nations.

Ralph Tarraf, head of the EU delegation to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, called on Israel to end the blockade on Gaza.

He called for “steps to bring about a political, security and economic change.”

He said all sides should work towards “ending the closure, taking into account the legitimate security concerns of the Gaza Strip’s neighbours.”

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade, which it says is necessary to keep its enemy Hamas, which runs the strip, from bringing in material that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials say such actions are collective punishment and have repeatedly called for the blockade to be eased or lifted.

The EU provides around 300 million euros to the Palestinian people annually, with almost half of this going to Gaza, a spokesman said.