STRASBOURG: The EU may send a naval mission towards Gaza to help control the transit of goods if Israel lifts its blockade of the Palestinian territory, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief said Wednesday.
Catherine Ashton said there may be a "maritime option for a CSDP (Common Defense and Security Defense Policy) mission," adding however that such an option would be "more complex" than helping monitor land crossings into Gaza.
Israel has come under increased pressure to lift its blockade, which has been in place since 2007, after a commando raid on an aid flotilla bringing aid for the Gaza Strip last month left nine Turkish activists dead.
British peer Ashton, who visited Gaza earlier this year, stressed that "what happened on the seas outside Gaza was unacceptable."
She called on the Israeli government to allow humanitarian aid, commercial goods and civilians to "enter and exit Gaza normally," with only arms and other goods "where Israel has legitimate security concerns," prohibited.
Ashton added that the EU border mission at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which has been largely inactive since 2005, "could be reactivated" and Europe is ready to support the opening of other land crossings.
"The blockade hurts ordinary people, prevents reconstruction and fuels radicalism" and "empowers Hamas," the Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip, she said.
She said it was also partially ineffective, as goods are smuggled in illegal tunnels and get to "those with money and clout."
However she admitted that "it will not be easy to find an agreed way to lift the blockade."
Also at the EU parliament pro-Palestinian groups announced that they plan to send another aid flotilla for Gaza next month, similar to the one involved in the deadly Israeli attack.