Palestinian families leave their homes in Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood in fear of renewed Israeli attacks. Photo: AFP
Major European powers have outlined a detailed plan for a European-backed UN mission to monitor the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of Hamas's military tunnel network and rocket arsenals, according to a copy of the plan obtained by press.
Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike in Rafah. Photo: AFP
It remains unclear whether the European plan has the support of Hamas, Israel, or the United States. It does, however, include several elements the Obama administration believes are essential, including the need to ease Gazans' plight, strengthen the role of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and ensure the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.
Gazans inspect the rubbles of a bombardment site. Photo: AFP
The plan -- described in a so-called non-paper titled "Gaza: Supporting a Sustainable Ceasefire" -- envisions the creation of a UN-mandated "monitoring and verification" mission, possibly drawing peacekeepers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which has monitored a series of Israeli-Arab truces in the region since the late 1940s.
The key aim of the initiative is to help the Palestinian Authority gradually assume military, and political, control over Gaza, which has been administered by the militant group Hamas since 2007. The paper -- which was drafted by Britain, France, and Germany -- could serve as the basis for a UN Security Council resolution.
"We are strongly committed to playing a role in supporting the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, to address security concerns whilst opening up access to Gaza and supporting the return of the Palestinian Authority," the document continues. "In order to achieve a sustainable ceasefire, it will be important to address simultaneously Israeli demands in terms of security and Palestinian demands regarding the lifting of the restrictions and for both to be closely monitored through an international mechanism."
Many of the document's ideas are not new. But Europeans have been unable to implement many of these hoped-for measures after Hamas, which prevailed in legislative elections in 2006, moved militarily the following year to seize control of Gaza from Fatah, its partner in a unity government.
The initiative also calls for new European-supported "security arrangements" to ensure a lasting cease-fire and security for Gaza and Israel. The arrangements, which would be led by the Palestinian Authority, "should help to prevent a rearming of militant groups in Gaza and military violations, and provide for an effective dismantling of tunnels between Gaza and Israel."
A Palestinian man in the West Bank town of Hebron confronts Israeli soldiers during clashes following a demonstration is support of Gaza after Friday prayers. Photo: AFP
Under the terms of the plan, European police advisors operating as part of the European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS) -- which is based in the West Bank -- could be given a broader mandate to support the Palestinian Authority as it takes on an expanded security role in Gaza.
It also includes a set of specific steps to ease Gazans' hardships, including allowing the export of goods from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel, increasing the number of trucks allowed into Gaza, allowing trade by sea, and extending the fishing areas to 12 nautical miles.