Malta pledges assistance to Gaza Strip refugees 18Dec10 December 19, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  18 December 2010

GAZA CITY (AFP) — Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg on Friday promised during a visit to the Gaza Strip to donate funds to the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees.

Speaking at the end of a three-day tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, Borg said he had met businessmen who complained they still faced shortages despite a recent easing of Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-run strip.

Israel launched a fierce 22-day offensive against the militant Islamic Hamas in Gaza in December 2008, which killed 1,400 Palestinians according to figures from Palestinian medics and human rights groups.

During the fighting 13 Israelis died, several from rockets and mortars fired by Palestinians into Israel.

Homes and essential infrastructure in Gaza were extensively damaged in the conflict and rebuilding has been hampered by Israeli restrictions on import of construction materials on the grounds they could be used by Hamas to build bunkers and tunnels.

“Malta is interested in launching projects for the benefit of Gaza,” Borg told a news conference. “We will financially assist UNRWA [the UN Relief and Welfare Agency] in this respect.”

Borg was the fourth European Union foreign minister to visit Gaza this year, after his Irish, German and Italian counterparts, and he said their trips influenced thinking in Brussels.

“I feel that the visits which have taken place in recent months by different foreign ministers from the European Union have made a difference,” he said. “The fact that now we are agreeing on certain things about Gaza is a step in the right direction.”

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