Abbas Asks EU for Peacekeepers Amidst Gaza Aid Confusion | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.02.2009
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Abbas Asks EU for Peacekeepers Amidst Gaza Aid Confusion

The EU has criticized Israel, and the UN did the same to Hamas, for disrupting aid to the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Palestinian president says only European troops can bring order to the troubled Middle East.

Abbas speaking to the European Parliament

Abbas also told the European Parliament that Israel had committed "war crimes"

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made his request for armed support while addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

"The time has come for the international community to bear its legal, political and moral responsibilities and provide ... adequate international protection," Abbas said. "I would like to stress again our request to send international forces in order to protect our people."

Abbas has indicated his Fatah faction would like to form a national unity government with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. That could require new Palestinian elections.

"I hope you will help us organize such elections and oversee them," Abbas told European lawmakers.

But the prospect of EU troops in the region is dim since the 27-member bloc has set a permanent Palestinian truce with Israel and Israeli consent as preconditions for any such involvement.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering insisted that Hamas renounce terrorism and stop launching rocket attacks against Israel, although he said the EU was anxious to help.

"We want to be a fair partner for the people in Palestine and the people in Israel," Poettering said.

Both the European Union and the United States have classified Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Supplies, truce not arriving

Palestinians with bags of flour loaded on their donkey carts at a United Nations food aid distribution center

Both Israel and Hamas have been accused of hindering aid to Gaza

Reuters news agency reported that the EU Presidency, currently held by the Czech Republic, sent a letter to Israel on Monday, criticizing it for blocking the arrival of much-needed aid to the Gaza Strip.

"Your government gave us assurances regarding access of humanitarian aid and aid workers to the Gaza Strip," the letter stated. "Since then we have not witnessed much improvement of the overall restrictions."

The EU also said the current daily 200 truckloads of humanitarian assistance were insufficient for the needs of the Gaza populace, which suffered greatly under the Israeli military incursions that came in response to Hamas rocket attacks.

Aid provided was "far below the minimal requirements to answer [Gaza's] humanitarian and commercial needs," the authors of the letter wrote, adding that 500 truckloads were required.

But strong words from the international community were not directed only at Israel. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) accused Hamas on Wednesday of stealing thousands of blankets and food packages intended to help poor Gazan families.

The UNRWA said it "strongly condemned the confiscation," which it alleged happened Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the Feb. 5 deadline, set by mediator Egypt, for Hamas to arrive at a truce with Israel was rapidly approaching. But a Hamas spokesman said no breakthrough was likely.

"There is still a huge gap between Hamas and Israel concerning a truce." Mohammed Nizzal, a member of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus, Syria, told the dpa news agency. "More time is needed."

Egypt has been trying to broker a truce between Hamas and Israel since Jan. 18, when Israeli ceased most of its military action in Gaza.

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