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President Shimon Peres on Tuesday told Hans-Gert Pottering, the president of the European parliament, that European sympathy for Hamas is diminishing the chances of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Peres said Europe and the international community are harming the peace effort by expressing understanding for the situation in Gaza, which, he said, was essentially expressing understanding for Hamas' terror.

Pottering, who is also president of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, was in Israel as part of a fact-finding mission to the Middle East and to contribute to the re-launch of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Peres also said the Palestinian Islamist group uses its own people as human shields in order to advance its interests. Israel is fighting and will continue to fight relentlessly against terror, but at the same time does not and will not refrain from allowing the flow of food and medicine into Gaza, he added.

The senior European Union official, for his part, told Peres that there is great concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, adding that the United Nations had reported a shortage of food and medicine in the Hamas-ruled territory.

Prior to the meeting, Pottering said that, "We believe in a peaceful and lasting solution for the Middle East made under the auspices of the United Nations and based on a two-state solution. We have to help the people of Gaza by opening the borders, while preventing Hamas from arming again."

"We are in favor of peace and resolutely against war and terrorism. This is our message and it will be transmitted to all partners in the region," he concluded.