Israel invites EU ministers to Gaza

Visit proposed as Israel comes under mounting pressure over continued blockade.

    Israel launched a series of air raids
    on the Gaza Strip overnight [AFP]

    The proposed visit would include Israeli towns along the Gaza border that have been hit by Palestinian rocket fire as well as locations inside the territory.

    Convoy attack

    Israel has denied foreign diplomats access to Gaza through its checkpoints since tightening the blockade in 2007, a move that has been criticised by the international community as collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians.

    IN DEPTH

    Pressure has mounted on Israel to scrap the crippling blockade, which stops many basic goods reaching the population, after an international outcry earlier this month over the killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists during a raid on a convoy of Gaza-bound ships.

    In an effort to ease international condemnation, Israel eased the restrictions saying it would allow civilian items in while still preventing weapons and certain dual-use items from entering.

    Werner Faymann, the prime minister of Austria, was the latest EU official to condemn the siege on Thursday.

    Faymann urged Israel to put an end to the blockade and called for improvement of living conditions in the coastal territory.

    "We have to improve the situation, the living situation of people in Gaza Strip. To support people in the Gaza Strip and improve their living conditions it's necessary to end the blockade," Faymann said during a news conference with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president.

    Gaza air raids

    Meanwhile, a series of Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday marked the first attack on Gaza since Israel's raid on the aid ships.

    Palestinian medical officials said that at least one Palestinian was injured in the attacks.

    An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the strikes targeting, what they said were two smuggling tunnels on the Rafah border near Egypt, and another target, an alleged weapons storage facility on the northern Gaza border.

    "Our planes attacked an armoury in the north of the Gaza Strip and two tunnels used for gunrunning in the south" from Egypt, the spokesman said.

    No injuries were reported in the second location.

    The Israeli army spokesperson said the strikes came in retaliation for over 10 mortar shells fired from Gaza into Israel on Thursday, seven of which landed in Israel causing no injuries.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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