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Europe

Czech EU Presidency Plans Donors' Conference For Gaza

The EU's Development Commissioner says Israel is not respecting international human rights law in the Gaza Strip as the EU presidency calls for financial support to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation there.

Trucks filled with humanitarian aid

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid are allowed into Gaza for a few hours a day

The European Union's Czech presidency has called for an international donors' conference to deal with the urgent humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg would focus his efforts on "the cessation of hostilities and the achievement of a lasting ceasefire," the presidency said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Schwarzenberg led an EU mission to Gaza. The statement said he had been following the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip "with increasing concern."

"(He) believes that right now is the moment to seriously consider steps to be taken as soon as a ceasefire is reached," the statement said. "Therefore, the minister believes it is necessary to call an international donors' conference that will both address the urgent humanitarian needs of the Gaza inhabitants caused by the ongoing fighting and consider the reconstruction of Gaza in a longer-term perspective."

The Czech Presidency said it was prepared to assume this task as soon as possible, yet gave no precise date for the conference.

Israel not respecting human rights

In an interview with the Belgian daily La Libre Belgique, the EU's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel said Israel was not respecting international human rights law in the Gaza Strip.

Louis Michel

Michel says the EU must take a "balanced approach" in the Middle East

"It's clear that Israel is not respecting international human rights laws," Michel said in the interview published Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Israel was providing "insufficient protection" to the civilian population, he said.

The Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip has left more than 900 dead, including significant numbers of Palestinian women and children.

"Their response is even more difficult to accept, coming as it does from a democracy," Michel said.

Dire humanitarian situation

Some one million people in the Gaza Strip are without power and 750,000 without water, while hospitals are still functioning on generators.

Aid deliveries have been massively disrupted since Israel began its offensive at the end of December. Humanitarian aid agencies have said that residents are running out of food and may even have to begin burning their furniture to stay warm in the bitterly cold nights.

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