Gaza is a prison camp, says De Rossa


MIDDLE EAST: The Palestinian people were being starved and massacred in the "prison camp" of Gaza, Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa told the European Parliament in a debate on the Middle East.

"Gaza is a prison camp for 1.3 million Palestinians and it is sealed tight by the state of Israel. The occupants of this camp are being systematically starved, their health and education infrastructure is being destroyed and their economy is being laid to waste. At the same time they are being massacred," said Mr De Rossa, who represents Dublin.

"Up to 80 men, women and children were killed in the past week, with over 300 killed since the summer, when Israel used its attack on Lebanon as a cover for a parallel assault on Gaza. And this is being done by a state which claims to be the only democracy in the region. This in my view is a shameful expression of democracy," he added.

Similar sentiments were expressed by his constituency colleague, Eoin Ryan of Fianna Fáil, who said he had viewed a documentary on Gaza at the parliament the day before and listened to colleagues who had recently visited the region.

"I was shocked at what I saw and heard, the sheer brutality that has been inflicted on Palestinian civilians. Both sides have to realise that the only solution is to sit down and talk. Dialogue is the only way forward."

Mr Ryan also condemned yesterday morning's rocket attack on the Israeli city of Sderot, in which a woman was killed.

Vice-president of the European Commission Margot Wallström of Sweden expressed sympathy for the 18 Palestinian victims of the Israeli attack on Beit Hanoun last week and "all the innocent Palestinians and Israelis who have lost their lives in this spiral of violence".

"Palestinian factions should stop firing rockets into Israeli territory. Whilst we recognise Israel's right to self-defence, this should not come at the price of innocent lives," Commissioner Wallström said. "Our efforts can alleviate the humanitarian crisis for the Palestinians. However, its root cause, which is the lack of hope in a peaceful solution for Israelis and Palestinians, must be tackled urgently. There is an urgent need to return to a comprehensive peace process with a clear political perspective."

On behalf of the Finnish presidency, Minister of European Affairs Paula Lehtomaeki said the EU was calling on Israel to cease its military activities in Gaza. "Israel has to respect international humanitarian law. Security is not just for one side but for everyone who lives in the Middle East," she said.

Earlier yesterday, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, told the parliament that "a just solution to the Palestinian question should be based on the implementation of all international resolutions by both the Israeli and the Palestinian side".