The plight of the Palestinians has been highlighted by Kofi Annan on his Middle East tour. In Ramallah for top-level talks, the UN Secretary- General called on Israel to lift its closure of the Gaza Strip. He also voiced support for the formation of a Palestinian unity government – something Palestinian leaders hope could ease foreign sanctions imposed after Hamas won elections.
“If the Palestinians can unite around a common realistic programme, and if this can help bring the security situation under control, it would be a very positive step indeed and the United Nations would do whatever it can to support you in this effort,” he said at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas has been renewing efforts to create a partnership between his Fatah movement and the governing Hamas group. He said he was going to Gaza today to discuss a unity government with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Annan called for an end to the bloodshed that has claimed the lives of over 200 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since the end of June when Israel launched an offensive there following the abduction of a soldier by militants. Witnesses said at least four civilians and four Palestinian gunmen were killed in a neighbourhood of Gaza City today.