Monday, February 18, 2008

Olmert says Israel has 'free hand' on blockade

· Prime minister defends actions against Gaza
· UN envoy fails to secure meeting on five-day visit
  • The Guardian, Monday February 18 2008
The UN's top humanitarian, Sir John Holmes, said yesterday that the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory was a "political crisis" that needed a "political solution". He spoke as the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said the people of Gaza could not live normal lives while Israelis across the border were constantly targeted by rockets.

Speaking in Jerusalem at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, Olmert said Israel's military had a "free hand" to hit Gaza militants. "We will reach out for anyone involved in terrorism against Israelis and will not hesitate to attack them," he said. "That applies to everyone, first and foremost Hamas."

Speaking separately at a briefing to journalists, Holmes said: "The problems won't be removed without a political solution." But the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, who is on a five-day visit to the region, said that as a humanitarian he had limited control over the UN's key political decision-making body, the security council. "I don't come expecting to work miracles. The situation is extremely difficult, the politics extremely difficult."

Continued . . .

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