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Firmer European voice needed to unblock humanitarian crisis in the Middle East

As EU Foreign Ministers meet in Prague, Amnesty International today urged them to spare no efforts to pressure Israel to end attacks which are directed at civilians or civilian buildings in the Gaza Strip or are disproportionate, and to allow much needed humanitarian access to the region. In a letter sent to the EU Troika upon its return from the Middle East (available at http://www.amnesty.eu/) Amnesty International expressed particular concern about the EU’s failure, so far, to play a decisive role at the United Nations Security Council. The organization urged the EU to work proactively with all Security Council members so that a humanitarian truce is implemented without delay. “There are 1.5 million people effectively trapped in the Gaza Strip, in the midst of a humanitarian disaster. EU member states need to put their differences aside and send a strong signal to both parties” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office. “To show that it means business, the EU should put on hold discussions on the upgrade of relations with Israel and work on getting concrete commitments from Israel to end the humanitarian catastrophe” he added. Despite EU and other diplomatic efforts, the conflict has intensified over the past few days with civilian casualties increasing day by day. In Gaza, schools and universities are being targeted while media and organizations such as the Red Cross are denied full access. EU aid is also being prevented from reaching the Gaza Strip. At the same time Amnesty International continues to call for an end to on-going indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups into civilian areas in southern Israel. “The escalation of violence by both parties’ demonstrates that diplomatic efforts have not yet had a significant impact. EU Foreign Ministers need to show determination so that their efforts are not ignored” said Beger. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva will also hold a Special Session on the situation in Gaza Strip this Friday. Amnesty International urges the EU to do all it can so that there is a clear an unambiguous call by this key human rights body to end the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.