Solana tours Gaza Strip; EU to give over $550 million in aid for Palestinians
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana toured the war-torn Gaza Strip on Friday. Solana was not slated to meet with representatives of Hamas. "I came to express solidarity with the people of Gaza and to tell them that we will be helping them in the reconstruction process," Solana said, standing at the ruins of the American International School of Gaza, destroyed by Israeli bombs during the offensive.
An international conference on Gaza's reconstruction is to begin Monday in Egypty. According to the AP, Solana noted the EU hoped to "get the money that will be necessary to reconstruct the destruction that has taken place in this period of time."
On Friday, the EU's executive office said it will give $556 million in aid to the Palestinians in 2009, including support for rebuilding Gaza. It said the pledge is to be made at Monday's conference. "By offering a substantial aid package we confirm our generosity and commitment towards the Palestinians," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.
The European Union is the biggest donor of funds to the Palestinians, providing more than half a billion euros each year.