The European Union joined on Thursday a United Nations call for Israel to reconsider its move to declare the Gaza Strip "hostile territory" and appealed for it not to cut key services to the Hamas-run territory.
Israel announced the move on Wednesday, saying it would disrupt electricity and fuel supplies to the coastal strip as a step to prevent continued rocket fire at Israeli civilians.
Following the cabinet's decision, Israel Defense Forces officials on Thursday morning began formulating plans to limit services to the civilian population in Gaza.
"Our first reaction is one of deep preoccupation ... We think the Gaza people should not be deprived of basic necessities," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.
"We join the call by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Israel government to reconsider its decision," he added in a statement issued through his spokeswoman.
The European Commission, which helped coordinate emergency aid to Palestinians after militant Islamist Hamas' election victory prompted the West to suspend direct aid to the territories, also urged Israel to reconsider.
"The Commission hopes that Israel will not find it necessary to implement the measures for which the decisions set the framework yesterday," a spokeswoman for the EU executive said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel on Wednesday to reconsider its decision to declare the Gaza Strip a hostile territory, warning that any cutoff of vital services would violate international law and punish the already suffering civilian population.
In one of his toughest statements aimed at Israel since taking the reins of the UN on January 1, Ban said he was very concerned at the Israeli government's declaration earlier Wednesday and its announced intent to interrupt essential services such as electricity and fuel to the civilian population.
"Such a step would be contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population under international humanitarian and human rights law," he said.
"I call for Israel to reconsider this decision," the secretary-general said in a statement read by UN spokeswoman Michele Montas.
Haniyeh meets with militant factions in bid to halt rocket fireDeposed Palestinian Authority prime minister Ismail Haniyeh met in the Gaza Strip with leaders from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) on Thursday, in a bid to bring about a halt to Qassam rocket fire from from the Gaza Strip.
Despite this, Islamic Jihad said it would keep firing rockets at Israel, after the groups leaders met with Haniyeh on Wednesday in his attempt to convince them to halt the rocket fire.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, has urged militants not to fire rockets at Gaza-Israel border crossings, to prevent a cutoff of supplies, particularly during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. However, Hamas militants have fired mortar at Israeli targets.
Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad militants, said Thursday that "rockets are an affirmation of our option of continuing holy war and resistance against the occupation. Therefore, resistance will only stop if the occupation ends," he said.
The restrictions the cabinet unanimously voted upon include limiting the supply of fuel and electricity from Israel to Gaza, the transfer of goods through the crossings and the movement of people to and from the Strip. Visits to prisoners will come to a halt, and Israel will increase the monitoring of funds.
Arab, Islamic states denounce Gaza Sanctions at UN human rights bodyArab and Islamic countries on Thursday condemned Israel for declaring the Gaza Strip "hostile territory", and accused Israeli forces of killing Palestinian civilians, detaining parliamentarians, and destroying property.
In speeches to the United Nations Human Rights Council, delegates from the Middle East and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said the humanitarian situation in the territories had deteriorated and would worsen further if Israel cut fuel and electricity to Gaza's 1.5 million people.
Israel's Ambassador Itzhak Levanon denounced the 47-member state forum for "bashing" Israel, while the U.S. delegation called for a "balanced and forward-looking approach"
Mohammad Abu-Koash, Palestinian representative to the UN in Geneva, told the talks: "Israel's recent declaration that Gaza Strip is hostile territory contravenes the Oslo agreements and mutual agreements in which I was involved."
Israeli raids had caused death and injuries among civilians, and destruction of homes, farms and infrastructure, he said.
"Kidnapping of civilians and officials go on unabated and by now there are 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli detention centers, including parliamentarians," the Palestinian envoy said.
Pakistan's ambassador Masood Khan, speaking on behalf of the OIC, decried the "deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories."
"The Palestinians face military incursions, extra-judicial and targeted assassinations, restrictions on movement and demolition of houses and infrastructure," Khan said.
The OIC, a 57-nation alliance representing 1.3 billion Muslims, urged Israel to reverse its decision to interrupt basic services in Gaza, saying that would violate international law.
Western powers including Switzerland and the European Union denounced both Israeli restrictions in the territories and extreme militants who fire cross-border rockets.
Switzerland said that cutting fuel and power supplies would amount to "collective punishment" of the civilian population.
The debate was sparked by Israel's denial of access to UN human rights investigators seeking to probe alleged violations in the territories last year, including the death of 19 Palestinian civilians in errant Israeli shelling of the Gaza town of Beit Hanun in Gaza.
Syria's envoy Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui said the stalled UN investigations should not be forgotten, adding: "This will determine credibility of the Council."
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