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EU urges Palestinians to unite, Aid Commissioner slams Hamas in Gaza

Article published on the 2009-01-26 Latest update 2009-01-26 12:28 TU

A Hamas police officer stands near the parliament building destroyed during Israel's offensive in Gaza(Photo: Reuters)

A Hamas police officer stands near the parliament building destroyed during Israel's offensive in Gaza
(Photo: Reuters)

On a visit to Gaza Monday, European Union Aid Commissioner Louis Michel declared that Hamas, which has majority support in the area, is a "terrorist movement". On Sunday, EU foreign ministers called for Palestinian national reconciliation so border crossings can be opened. Meanwhile, Hamas representatives are in Egypt to discuss prolonging their truce with Israel.

"At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas," said Michel on a visit to the town of Jabaliya in the north of Gaza. "I intentionally say this here.”

“Hamas is a terrorist movement, and it has to be denounced as such," he added, calling on Hamas to recognise Israel's right to exist and to end armed struggle as conditions for the EU's help in re-launching a "political dialogue".

In Brussels on Sunday, EU foreign ministers called for Palestinian unity.

"We believe that Palestinian reconciliation behind President Mahmud Abbas is fundamental to progress," said Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwartzenberg.

Abbas's Fatah movement and other groups arrived in Egypt for unity talks on Monday.

Hamas representatives were already in Cairo to discuss prolonging their week-long truce with Israel. They are considering an Egyptian plan for an 18-month renewable ceasefire, which would see the border crossings with Israel reopened after an 18-month closure.

But the group has ruled out including the liberation of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as part of the deal.

The fate of Shalit, who also had French citizenship, is "a separate issue and should be dealt with in the framework of a prisoner exchange only," Gaza-based Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told the Egyptian state Mena news agency Monday.

An Iranian group which supports Hamas on Monday pledged to rebuild 1,100 houses, ten schools, a hospital, a university and five mosques destroyed in the offensive.

The Iranian Gaza Reconstruction Committee also promised aid to bereaved families.

The Hamas-run authorities earlier announced plans to distribute 4,000 euros to each family whose home was destroyed and 1,000 euros for each family member killed.