Hamas has condemned the deployment of a French frigate off the coast of Gaza, saying it would reinforce an Israeli blockade on the strip.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniya lashed out at French President Nicolas Sarkozy over the deployment of the warship to the area allegedly to fight ‘arms smuggling’ into the coastal region.
“We expected France, whose motto is ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ to send hospital ships to treat the children burned by banned weapons or to set up a humanitarian bridge… rather than deploy a navy ship to reinforce the blockade,” said Haniya in a statement Tuesday.
Israel’s 18-month old blockade and its 22-day military campaign has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian coastal silver.
The deployment was ordered Friday in cooperation with Israel and Egypt as part of “immediate actions to fight against the smuggling of weapons towards Gaza.”
“We are astonished by the European position which blames the victims and the oppressed people for the tragedy that befell the Gaza Strip,” said Haniya.
After having failed to prevent Hamas arming through a 22-day full-scale offensive against the movement, Israel signed a deal with the United Stated to stop arrival of arms into the region.
Following the agreement, Sarkozy ordered the deployment of a frigate to international waters off the coast of Gaza, saying the warship will conduct “surveillance in international waters off Gaza, in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel.”
Sarkozy had also told Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, to “coordinate closely” with the US and Europe as soon as possible to propose other ways to prevent Palestinians from obtaining arms.
Hamas says that as a democratically elected government it is entitled to have weapons in order to “defend” Palestinians against their enemy.
“No one has the right to prevent the Palestinians from equipping themselves with weapons as long as the occupation continues,” Hamas representative Osama Hamdan said in Lebanon.