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Europe

German Government Minister Criticizes Israel

Germany's Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development criticizes Israel's campaign against the Palestinians. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul says Israel is destroying infrastructure built with European aid money.

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Palestinian police pick through the rubble at Gaza airport

German government ministers are normally reluctant to publicly criticize Israel. Due to the Holocaust, Germany's ties to Israel will always be more sensitive than diplomatic relations with any other country.

It's therefore all the more unusual that a member of Chancellor Gerhard Schröders cabinet isn't mincing her words in a newspaper interview.

In Tuesday's edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany's Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul criticizes Israel's most recent campaigns in Gaza.

She says it's hard to bear that Israel is destroying infrastructure which was built with German and European aid money.

Wieczorek-Zeul is referring to radar technology installed at Gaza Airport. Israel bombed the airport last week, destroying the radar tower and the runway.

According to Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany had supported the construction of the tower with close to eight million euro ($ 7 million) in financial aid.

Wieczorek-Zeul said Israel's tactic in the conflict was hard to comprehend. All German-Palestinian cooperation projects had previously been approved by Israel, the Minister added.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said a military solution to the Middle East conflict was impossible. She urged Israeli and Palestinian authorities to resume negotiations.

EU and U.S. also criticize Israel

The German minister's criticism of Israel echoed similar comments from the European Union in Brussels.

The EU chided the Israeli army for leveling dozens of refugee homes in the Gaza Strip and said such action was no way to restore peace.

EU officials also expressed dismay at the large-scale destruction of Palestinian

infrastructure and building projects. They said the EU had pumped millions of euro into the region and helped construct Gaza airport and schools.

According to the EU officials, Israel has damaged several EU aid projects over the past three months. They include the airport, Palestinian police force camps, Gaza harbor and schools in West Bank cities.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended last week's demolitions, but some government ministers criticized the move. The United Nations and the United States also expressed their dissatisfaction with the forced destruction.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the displacement of people through the
demolition of homes or property provocative.

"They undermine trust and confidence, they create
additional hardship and contribute to an escalation in tension and violence," Boucher added.

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