Gaza City, Jan 27 European Union (EU) Aid Commissioner Louis Michel who is touring Gaza sharply criticised Israel Monday for the massive destruction he saw around him, but said Hamas also bore an “overwhelming” part of the blame.
“We have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas,” Michel told local reporters as he toured Jabaliya, a crowded refugee camp north of Gaza City which was hit hard in Israel’s 22-day offensive.
“Firing rockets at civilians is a terrorist action,” he said in remarks translated into Arabic.
“I intentionally say this here, Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such,” he said.
He earlier strongly condemned Israel for its destruction of civilian infrastructure, as he inspected buildings in Gaza destroyed in the Israeli assault, including an icecream, a biscuit and a soft-drink factory.
He said the destruction pointed at an obvious violation of international humanitarian law.
But the 61-year-old Belgian, normally known as a staunch critic of Israel, added that for progress in the peace process to be possible, Hamas had to accept two “small conditions” – recognize Israel’s right to exist and to abandon armed struggle.
The EU official announced a further 58 million euros ($75 million) in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, of which around 32 million euros would be for the “dramatic” humanitarian situation in Gaza. Another 20 million euros would go to the West Bank and the remaining six million to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
“Destruction on such a massive scale saddens me deeply,” Michel said as he toured Gaza’s rubble strewn streets.
Calling the situation in Gaza “catastrophic”, he said the strip’s civilian population of nearly 1.5 million had faced “terrible and unprecedented” suffering compared to past times of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.