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German FM calls for lifting of Gaza blockade during visit

June 1, 2015 2:56 P.M. (Updated: June 2, 2015 9:54 A.M.)
(MaanImages)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The German foreign minister on Monday called on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza in return for Palestinian security reassurances during a visit to the beleaguered coastal enclave.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, heading a delegation of 60 German officials, arrived in the region on Saturday to hold talks with top Palestinian and Israeli officials.

During Monday's visit to Gaza he said the enclave was a "powder keg" at risk of exploding, and called for efforts to quicken reconstruction.

"I came out of all my discussions yesterday in Jerusalem and in Ramallah with the hope that all parties are mindful that here we are sitting on a powder keg here and that we must ensure that the fuse does not catch light," Steinmeier said at a press conference in Gaza City's fishing port.

"We shall only be able to decisively reduce the risks of a fresh escalation if we allow economic development in the Gaza Strip in addition to humanitarian aid and reconstruction," he said.

That would only be possible "with open borders" -- a reference to the Israeli blockade restricting movement of goods and people.

However, he added that it would only be possible if there was a halt to Palestinian rocket fire on southern Israel.

"But none of this will succeed until it is certain that there will be no further rocket attacks from here, when it is no longer a launch pad," he said.

During his visit, Steinmeier toured a German-funded girls school in the beachfront Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.

But he did not meet any officials from Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza that is designated by the European Union as a "terrorist organisation."

Palestinian officials in the liaison office told Ma'an that the Gazan population continues to suffer as "real" reconstruction has not yet started.

Last year's conflict claimed the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

A World Bank report published in May said Gaza's unemployment rate of 44 percent was "probably the highest in the world" which, coupled with its soaring poverty levels, was "very troubling".

Earlier this month, Germany announced a $41 million contribution to the UNRWA shelter assistance program in Gaza.

With a total contribution of $93 million to UNRWA programs in Gaza to date, Germany is currently the second largest supporter of the UNRWA response to the humanitarian crisis resulting from last summer's devastating war between Israel and Hamas.

UNRWA director in Gaza, Robert Turner, praised the move by Germany saying: "More than eight months after the summer 2014 conflict ended, the situation in Gaza remains desperate and the people of Gaza urgently need other donors to follow the excellent example set by Germany."

AFP contributed to this report.

Comments
Mel / USA
Hamas is a partner in a war declared against religion and against Muslims working for the heretical government in the Gaza Strip.
01/06/2015 18:21
Mel's mom / USA
Israeli and Egyptian security services, most likely in conjunction with Hamas, set up a tight ring of bodyguards to protect German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier against possible assassins when he visited Gaza due to the ISIS presence.
01/06/2015 18:25
Quiche Lorraine / France
Islamic State of Jerusalem, Ansar al Dawa al-Islamia (ISIL) have posted a social media notice today calling on Gazans to discontinue their cooperation with the “heretical Hamas regime.”
01/06/2015 18:27
jabe / canada
Germany is to be praised for this positive initiative. However, it should go a step further taking the lead in demanding Israel's withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands so that a two state reality might occur. The fundamental issue is the illegal occupation along with Palestinian dehumanization.
01/06/2015 18:46
Simple Truth / USA
The Blockade of Gaza will only end when
The Hostilities from Gaza ends !!
01/06/2015 18:59
@ Jabe / Two Truths
PALESTINIANS "made their beds (with terror and war crimes), and now they MUST LIE IN them" (GAZA, AREAS A/B), until they accept peace, and:
-1- There is nothing praiseworthy in such a German initiative, and
-2- Nothing positive would come from Germany making such demands of Israel either.
01/06/2015 19:43
Outlier / USA
He should have called for Hamas to step down and the announcement of new elections - a more forthright solution to the problem.
01/06/2015 19:54
Joop Jansen / the Netherlands
Stop talking ABOUT the Palestinians but talk TO the Palestinians.....
01/06/2015 20:51
Arnold / Canada
I hope it works. It all depends on Hamas
01/06/2015 22:29
narim / uk
well said Simple Truth
missiles from Gaza and attack tunnels would not be tolerated by any civilized country in the world. building some confidence by not sending missiles and not digging underground into isreal would be a good start
01/06/2015 22:43
Hassan / Germany
The German government has proved its blatant level of hypocrisy last year, when they, although having a policy of not exporting weapons to areas of crisis and military conflict, approved a deal worth $600m in weapons to Israel.
The same weapons over 2000 Palestinians were partly killed with.
02/06/2015 01:25
spb / usa
soon! no problem. let's say another 60 years, deal?
02/06/2015 03:43
Simple Hasbara / Minds
The blockade has nothing to do with Hostilities from Gaza, It has to do with putting Palestinians in an open air prison because Israeli's are still stinging from the defeat that forced them out of Gaza in the first place.
02/06/2015 05:13
@jabe / karma
From the Palestinian perspective, the root issue is the occupation, BUT from the Israeli perspective, the root issue is existential security. Until the Palestinian people free themselves from corrupt warmongers, there is little hope for progress, and the German FM validates that.
02/06/2015 08:55
@jabe / Karma
...unless you subscribe to the belief that Israel has no right to exist, in which case, it only ends with total victory for one side, and annihilation for the other.
02/06/2015 08:57
Anti-propaganda / Karma
And side-note: once again maan disappoints with blatant propaganda posing as news... The headline and text clearly downplay that the German FM reinforces the preconditions for progress! STOP FIGHTING AND START TALKING!...but neither side is prepared to display any humility...
02/06/2015 09:03
@ Simple Mind / Truth
There was econimc cross-border trade, and no naval blockade,
until Hamas started it's war crime rocket attacks on Israeli cities, so
-1- you really are simple minded about "Gaza hostilities and open air prisons", and
-2- Hamas continues testing new rockets, so the Blockade should continue.
02/06/2015 18:13
@ karma / Truth
I don't understand what "humility" has to do with the situation. However,
-1- Israel has always sought to "start talking", to resolve disputes with words, and suceeded when it had willing partners (Egypt and Jordan), but
-2- Palestinians will never be willing peace partners or "stop fighting" !!
02/06/2015 18:20
The Best Solution / Truth
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in Judea, Samaria and Gaza polled a total of 1,200 people in face-to-face interviews. Respondants results (3% error) were that:
- "50% of Gaza is considering emigrating", and
- 25% of the West Bank is too !!
09/06/2015 21:12
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