For Immediate Release

Jerusalem, 7th February 2008

A delegation composed of 10 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from different political groups (see the list of participants below) and led by Luisa Morgantini, Vice-President of the European Parliament, broke the Israeli siege and travelled to the Gaza Strip on 5th February 2008.

During a press conference, MEPs reaffirmed the need and the urgency to lift the blockade that represents “an illegal collective punishment on the civil population”.

Visiting the Al-Shifa Hospital, the delegation expressed its deep concern and worry about the extreme difficulties under which the main hospital in the Gaza Strip is obliged to operate, where patients with cancer, but not only with cancer, do not avail of the necessary medical drugs or treatments and at least 30 premature babies, still alive thanks to incubators, risk dying if generators stop because of the lack of fuel due to cuts in refuelling supplies and to the closure decided by the Israeli Government.

In its mission to Gaza, the delegation also met many Palestinian businessmen who reaffirmed the impossibility for them to carry out their commercial activities because of the Israeli blockade, with disastrous consequences for the economy and the daily life of civilians: 80% of workers are currently unemployed without any compensation.

Refusing the idea of resorting to smuggling, currently the only channel open to access and trade goods in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian businessmen have on the contrary reiterated to MEPs their will and their right to free and honest trade. Palestinian businessmen also repeated that the siege does not affect Hamas’ political and religious movement but that, on the contrary, the heaviest price is being paid by the civil population, as many Palestinian intellectuals and activists have been claiming for a long time and as they also claimed in a meeting with the MEPs in the offices of the “End the Siege” campaign (www.end-gaza-siege.ps; end.gaza.siege@gmail.com), with the participation, among others, of the doctor and human rights activist, Eyad Sarraj, one of the promoters of the demonstration for the International Day for the End of Gaza siege, on 26th January, held simultaneously in the Gaza Strip, at the Eretz Crossing, by Israeli peace activists, and all around the world.

The different organizations supporting the Campaign, but also many women from Gaza, meeting the delegation, reaffirmed the need for independence, freedom and peace for Palestinians, appealed for the lifting of the blockade and also for the right to security for all civilians, both Israelis and Palestinians. They restated at the same time that “Qassam rockets are fired not by the people of Gaza, but only by some groups of extremist Palestinians, and this must be condemned as well as all the bloodshed of civilians due to Israeli raids perpetuated by the army of occupation”.

In the press conference, broadcast by major Arab television channels, the MEPs, expressing their solidarity, declared they were “deeply impressed by the dignity and the resistance of the Palestinian people and wished that Palestinian political parties could find unity so that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would not be separated.”

MEPs also urged an intervention to put a stop to the ecological disaster in Beitlaya area; that the Rafah border and all Gaza crossings be opened thereby allowing free movement of people and goods; that the violent spiral of action-reaction be immediately stopped. They also called for concrete deeds for the resumption of peace negotiations based on the freezing of all illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, the end to the military occupation and for the establishment of a free and sovereign Palestinian State based on the ‘67 borders in coexistence with the Israeli State.

The delegation also urged effective action by the International Community to secure the freedom of all political prisoners and Palestinian Parliamentarians who have been arrested, to improve living conditions in all the Occupied Palestinian Territory and, in particular, in the Gaza Strip, to encourage Israel to show a concrete will for peace, that has not existed up until now and that is denied every day through the raids, check points, roadblocks, the wall and closures not only in Gaza but in the entire West Bank, such as in Hebron – which the MEPs visited on 4th February – a ghost town, occupied by hundreds of Israeli soldiers defending 400 fanatic settlers.

During the fact-finding mission, from 2nd – 7th February, the Members of the European Parliament with 8 officials, assistants and some journalists also visited the town of Sderot, in Israel, under daily attack by Qassam rockets, as a sign of solidarity with the civil population, where they met, among others, Zvi Shuldiner, director of a Department of Safir College and peace activist.

The delegation also met the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Minister in charge of Prisoners’ Affairs, Ashraf al- Ajami, Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council of different political parties – Fatah, Al Mubadarah, Third Way, Peoples’ Party, Popular Front, Independents and Change and Reform List (Hamas), some Members of the Knesset- Kadima Party and Labour Party, General Pietro Pistoiese, Head of the EUBAM mission in Rafah, EU and UNRWA Representatives, but also peace and human rights organizations from Israeli and Palestinian civil societies.

For all information, a statement or report please contact:

Luisa Morgantini: +972 547271742 (Palestinian mobile)
or 0039 348 39 21 465 (Italian mobile)
or 0039 06 69 95 02 17 (Rome Office)

luisa.morgantini@europarl.europa.eu; www.luisamorgantini.net

List of MEPs participants:

EVANS Jill, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, UK

FALBR Richard, Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Czech Republic

HEGYI Gyula, Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Hungary

HOWITT Richard, Socialist Group in the European Parliament, UK

KOTEREC Miloš, Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Slovakia

LAMBERT Jean, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, UK

MADEIRA E MADEIRA Jamila Barbara, Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Portugal

MALDEIKIS Eugenijus, Union for Europe of the Nations Group, Lithuania

MORGANTINI Luisa, Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, Italy

MORILLON Philippe, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, France


ZELEZNY Vladimir, Independence/Democracy Group, Czech Republic