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Europe

EU Offers More Aid to Gaza, Pushes for Diplomatic Solution

The EU said Sunday it's providing three million euros in urgent humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as European politicians continued diplomatic efforts to try and halt the violence.

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Palestinians in front of bombed out buildings

The Commission, the European Union's executive arm, announced an extra three million euros ($4.2 million) of emergency aid in the Gaza Strip, and urged Israel to allow a "humanitarian space" for delivery of vital relief.

The EU says the aid -- food, emergency shelter repairs and medical aid -- will be provided through the United Nations to Gaza Palestinians.

"One and a half million people are crammed into an area that is just over one percent the size of Belgium. They rely on supplies from outside for their survival and, with every day that passes, their situation becomes more desperate," EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said in a statement.

Michel urged Israel to let the aid through. The obligation to respect the principals of international humanitarian law "is universal and attacks from either side that kill or injure civilians indiscriminately are unacceptable," he added.

The EU is the largest aid donor to the Palestinian territories. In 2008, the bloc provided more than 73 million euros in humanitarian, 56 percent of it in the Gaza Strip.

Seeking diplomatic solutions

Meanwhile, European politicians continued to explore diplomatic options in an effort to halt the escalating violence after Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza following a week of air raids over the territory.

Despite the setback provided by the failure of the UN Security Council to agree on a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a host of European leaders vowed to pursue diplomatic solutions to end the bloodshed.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC the international community should work harder for an immediate ceasefire.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted that he would continue with a planned visit to the Middle East on Monday despite Israel's ground war. Sarkozy is scheduled to visit Egpyt, which together with France heads the Mediterranean Union, Jordan, Israel, Syria and Lebanon.

Germany called on Sunday for efforts towards a ceasefire in Gaza to intensify but said that any truce must ensure Israel's long-term security.

"I am very worried by the further escalation of fighting," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement. "This makes it all the more urgent work ... to create the conditions for a ceasfire."

But he added: "This must guarantee Israel's long-term security. This does not only mean that Hamas at last stops firing rockets. The smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip must also be properly prevented."

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