On Thursday, several European Union lawmakers urged Israel to refrain from inflicting collective punishment on the Palestinian residents in the Gaza Strip, and stated that the Israeli blockade over the coastal region had failed and the Israeli actions are putting civilian lives under danger.The lawmakers said that the Israeli blockade over Gaza resulting in cutting supplies to 1.5 million Palestinians and called on Israel to allow aid and essential goods into the area/

The EU stated in an adopted resolution that the civilian population should not be subjected to any military action or any sort of collective punishment.

 After more than 300 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip last year due to Israeli air strikes and ground offensives, Israel still failed to stop the firing of homemade shells fired by fighters into adjacent Israeli towns.

The EU called on Israel to stop its military offensives and to stop the extrajudicial assassinations especially since civilians are the first victims of these attacks.   

 EU lawmakers also urged Hamas, which is in power in Gaza, to prevent the firing of homemade shells into adjacent Israeli areas.

 The lawmakers called on the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and his government in the West Bank to initiate talks with Hamas.

The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip claimed the lives of 98 Palestinian patients, including eighteen children.

Extracts of the EU Statement;

Yesterday 20th February Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament (GUE/NGL), and General Philippe Morillon (ALDE) organized a press conference titled “Coming Back from Gaza and Sderot” with the participation of Members from different political groups of the European Parliament who took part to the fact finding mission to Israel and Palestine, 2-7 February 2008, in order to expose the results of their mission and report the situation found on the ground, in particular focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza Strip. MEP Jill Evans (GREEN), who participated to the mission in Gaza and Sderot affirmed that ‘The situation in Palestine is reaching breaking point. The siege is an inhuman and illegal collective punishment of the people in Gaza and is causing huge suffering. It has to be stopped. There has to be international action to lift the siege, end the occupation and resume peace negotiations’

“In Gaza, there is a humanitarian crisis building and an economic breakdown happening which can only benefit the violent, the lawless and the zealots on all sides: we have to support those who want to live ‘normal’, peaceful lives before that becomes impossible” – declared MEP Jean Lambert (GREEN) who also visited with the delegation Gaza and Sderot- “Both sides are hostages of their own extremists. That’s why the International Community should enforce a sustainable peace both on Israel and Palestine: it’s the basic interest of the peace-loving Israelis and Palestinians as well”- added MEP Gyula Hegyi (PSE) another participant to the mission.

European Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-Committee and also in the delegation who went to Israel and Palestine added: ‘This is a state of siege imposing medieval conditions on the people of Gaza, and is today identified by the European Parliament as a clear breach of human rights. European countries should take the lead to secure support from all sides in their UN Human Rights Council to seek enforcement of international humanitarian law’.

Responding to the resolution, the ruling Hamas in Gaza welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, but called for more pressure on Israel by the European governments.

Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, speaking to the IMEMC, was quoted as saying ‘ We in Hamas appreciate this call and believe that it is a step in the right direction’

Barhoum also commented on the EU’s call for Hamas to stop homemade rockets fire by maintaining ‘ The problem lies in the Israeli occupation, if this occupation halts all forms of its actions, including violence crimes, assassinations and invasions, then Hamas will be ready to consider any initiative that would put an end to the suffering of our people and lifting the siege’

The Israeli government has recently tightened its measures on Gaza by further cutting fuel supplies and preventing smooth access of people and good in and out of the coastal region. Israel says its actions ate meant to stop homemade shells fire.

The Israeli army killed last year more than 300 Palestinains , including dozens of civilians, as two Israelis were reportedly killed due to homemade shellsduring the same period of time, media reports suggest.