Ramallah – French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Monday night for an urgent truce between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, and blamed Hamas for the violence which has seen 550 Palestinians killed and over 2600 wounded in 10 days of Israeli attacks.
Addressing a joint news conference in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a European Union delegation, he condemned the firing of rockets into Israel, stressing that Hamas “acted in an irresponsible and unforgivable way” when it ended a truce on December 19 and began launching missiles at the Jewish state.
“Hamas bears a big responsibility for the suffering of the people in Gaza,” he said.
At the same time, the French leader condemned the Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip which began Saturday night after a week of heavy Israel Air Force raids on the salient.
“We had very clearly condemned the Israeli ground assault,” he said, adding that he will make this position very clear to Israeli officials when he meets them later Monday night.
“Violence should stop and humanitarian assistance should be delivered and facilitated. We cannot understand how Israel, a democracy, can allow the humanitarian situation in Gaza to get worse,” he said.
He said the urgent thing at this time is to bring an end to the violence.
“We want a ceasefire as soon as possible,” he said. “This alone will help resume the peace process.”
He said Europe has a responsibility and a role its wants to play in the Middle East.
Sarkozy’s call for an immediate ceasefire was also echoed by Abbas and the EU delegation.
“What we want is to see an end to the aggression against the Palestinian people,” Abbas said, explaining that he was leaving for New York later Monday night to attend a Security Council meeting on Gaza hoping to get a resolution calling for an immediate truce.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Europe is working on a ceasefire.
In addition to Schwarzenberg, the EU delegation at the news conference included EU top diplomat Javier Solana, EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. (dpa)