EU: Israel must release Hamas officials03/07/2006 - 19:34:08
The European Union today urged Israel to free Hamas officials, including eight Cabinet ministers and 26 politicians, and show restraint in its military campaign to force Palestinian militants to free a kidnapped Israeli soldier.
It also called for the soldier’s “immediate and unconditional release.”
In a statement, the EU said it “regrets the destruction” of public property in Israel’s efforts to press militants to free 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Israel has sent tanks, troops, gunboats and aircraft to attack Gaza over the past week to press militants to free Shalit.
Intensive efforts to mediate his release, involving Egypt and other regional players, have not been successful.
The EU said the attacks aggravate “the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
During a visit to Helsinki, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU is “very concerned about the negative developments we are now seeing,” and urged both parties to solve the conflict.
“We in the commission are ready to assist all the efforts of our member states to give positive contributions,” Barroso said after talks with Finnish president Tarja Halonen whose country assumed the rotating EU presidency on Saturday.
The EU called on Palestinian leaders “to bring an end to violence and terrorist activities, including the firing of rockets on Israeli territory.”
Palestinian militants today gave Israel less than 24 hours to start releasing 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, implying Shalit would be killed if Israel did not comply.
Barroso said the Israelis and Palestinians have to solve the problem themselves. “No one can do it on behalf of those who are directly involved, on behalf of the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves.”
“What we can do now is to ask for restraint on both sides and an end to violence, because we never thought that violence is the way to solve (this) very difficult issue,” Barroso said.
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