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Friday, February 27, 2009

Solana on unprecedented Gaza visit

Fri, 27 Feb 2009 17:42:13 GMT | PressTV

Solana (l) visits the ruin of a school in Beit Lahia
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has arrived in Gaza, becoming the first European official to visit the region since the Hamas takeover.

Solana, who came to the strip to see first hand the devastation caused by Israel's 23-day military offensive, said on Friday that his visit to the Palestinian territory was aimed at showing solidarity with the people of the war-ravaged enclave.

"I came to Gaza to see by myself the situation and the destruction and to show the solidarity to the good people of Gaza who have suffered so much," he said at a news conference.

After touring war sites in the coastal sliver, Solana also added that the European Union and the United States would attend an international donors' conference in Egypt next week, aimed at helping rebuild Gaza.

The war on Gaza led to the destruction of more than 4,100 homes, many schools, mosques, government buildings and even UN compounds, all of which Israel has the responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is estimated that the reconstruction of Gaza would cost about USD 2.8 billion. The European Commission has announced it would donate EUR 436m (USD 553m) in aid to the conflict-torn Gaza Strip.

Solana, also, voiced support for a Palestinian unity deal reached between rival Palestinian factions -- Fatah and Hamas -- in Cairo on Thursday, but added that the bloc's final position could only be determined after both sides reach a deal.

According to the agreement, the long-time rivals -- whose feud boiled over in 2007 when Hamas seized power in Gaza, after the movement was deposed despite wining the 2006 elections -- are to form a unity government by the end of March.

The deal could lead to the subsequent lifting of the 19-month-long Israeli blockade on the impoverished region.

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