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EU Envoy Wants Gaza Borders Open, Calls to Free Shalit

EU envoy Catherine Ashton says relaxed import policy is insufficient, calls on Israel to open Gaza crossings.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/18/2010, 9:55 PM / Last Update: 7/18/2010, 10:29 PM

Flash 90

European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton visited Gaza and the city of Sderot in southern Israel on Sunday. Ashton criticized Israel's new, relaxed policy on Gaza imports as insufficient, and called to open crossings between Israel and Gaza.

"The position of the European Union is very clear: that we want the opportunity for people to be able to move around freely or to see goods not only coming into Gaza but exports coming out of Gaza,” she said in a press conference in Gaza City.

Israel closed its Gaza crossings following Hamas' electoral win in Gaza, the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from outside Gaza, and the bloody Hamas takeover in 2007 which saw Fatah ousted.

Israel should “completely reopen the crossing points of Gaza,” Ashton said. She announced that the EU will increase its support for Gaza's private sector, and said she will return in several months to see if living conditions have improved.

After visiting Gaza Ashton proceeded to Sderot, the southern Israel town that has become known for the frequent rocket attacks it suffers at the hands of Gaza terrorists. The attacks show how important it is to reach a peace agreement, she said.

Minister of Public Relations Yuli Edelstein called on Ashton to understand that Israel “did everything it could” regarding humanitarian aid to Gaza. “At the same time, it's in the best interest of everyone who doesn't want to see a new round of violence in the region to make sure that no weapons or ammunition get to the Hamas government,” he warned.

While crossings between Gaza and Israel were still open, Gaza terror groups forced their closing dozens of times by attacking them with mortar rounds, car bombs and other weapons.

At a press conference held after her meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman, Ashton called on Hamas to free Gilad Shalit and allow the Red Cross to visit him. She intends to meet with the Shalit family on Monday..