European parliamentarians highlight Gaza plight
Returning from the largest delegation of parliamentarians ever to visit the besieged Gaza strip, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has criticised the slow pace of reconstruction in Gaza after the war one year ago and called for an end to the ongoing siege of Gaza.
Ms de Brún also called on the EU to "suspend the preferential trade agreement with Israel until they respect basic human rights"
Speaking at a press conference in the European Parliament in Brussels by the MEPs who participated in the mission, Ms de Brún said:
"This collective punishment of the people on the Gaza strip must be ended immediately. People have lost their homes, and have seen their economy and livelihoods destroyed. Many lack the basic necessities for daily life and while locals are trying their best, large scale reconstruction is impossible without the materials that are being blocked by the siege. There must be free movement of people and goods, and Israel must also end its colonisation of the West Bank.
"Twelve months after the Israeli offensive it is clear that while the rubble has been cleared, little or no reconstruction is underway. It is no wonder that the people of Gaza feel completely abandoned by the international community.
Ms de Brún continued:
"I will raise what I have in the European Parliament and with Minister Mícheál Martin who was recently refused entry to Gaza. It is time for the EU to suspend the preferential trade agreement with Israel until they respect basic human rights.
"The present situation is extremely damaging for the prospects for Palestinian unity and reconciliation, and for the prospects for peace
"Implementing the recommendations of the Goldstone Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict could help pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the conflict."
Note for editors:
12 Members of the European Parliament from 4 different political groups took part in the most representative parliamentary delegation ever to visit Gaza.
The delegation also included members of regional and national parliaments from 12 countries all over Europe, and consisted of nearly 60 members in total. They succeeded in entering Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah-crossing.
The purpose of this fact finding-mission was to gather information about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, under siege since the 2006 elections.
The mission included talks with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and representatives of local NGOs in Gaza, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary General of the Arab League and the speaker of the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo.
The mission was organized by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG), the umbrella body of thirty NGOs across Europe, and was headed by Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP.
The MEPs participating were:
BENARAB-ATTOU Malika (Greens/EFA, France)
CHILDERS Nessa (S&D, Ireland)
DE BRÚN Bairbre (GUE/NGL, Ireland)
EVANS Jill (Greens/EFA, UK)
GOEBBELS Robert (S&D, Luxembourg)
HOWITT Richard (S&D, UK)
MATIAS Marisa (GUE/NGL, Portugal)
RINALDI Niccolò (ALDE, Italy)
SCHOLZ Helmut (GUE/NGL, Germany)
SMITH Alyn (Greens/EFA, UK)
THEIN Alexandra (ALDE, Germany)
ZALA Boris (S&D, Slovakia)