RAMALLAH, Feb. 26 (JMCC) - On Thursday, Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin became the first foreign minister of any European Union country to be allowed into Gaza.
FM Martin called the situation in the Gaza Strip 'extremely depressing' and urged Israel to lift the blockade--which it has emposed since 2007--immediately.
Martin described the blockade as counter to Israel's goals, by choking ordinary Palestinians of their livelihood and driving them into the ranks of groups such as Hamas.
The Irish foreign minister crossed into Gaza from a border crossing with Egypt. He visited UN-operated schools, a food distribution center, as well as meeting with local business leaders, witnessing the destruction caused by Israel's military assault on Gaza one year ago.
Other European foreign ministers have tried to enter Gaza but have been denied by Israeli authorities. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead into Gaza last year killing over 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. It has refused to allow building materials of any kind into the territory, and has been criticized for instituting arbitrary restrictions on goods such as pasta and chick peas.