EU condemns Gaza raid; Jihad leader survives air strike

By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular

Haaretz Correspondents, and Reuters

Tishrei 27, 5765

The European Union called on Monday for an immediate end to Israel's military operations in Gaza and said a unilateral withdrawal from Palestinian territory could not be a substitute for a two-state political solution.

Foreign ministers of the 25-member bloc also mandated EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to implement plans which he outlined to them on a possible EU approach to the Middle East.

"[The EU] condemns the disproportionate nature of Israeli
military actions in the Gaza strip," they said in a statement.

Meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers acknowledged Israel's right to defend itself against missile attacks but said "these actions have claimed the lives of many innocent civilians, including children, and left many injured."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed on Monday to put his plan to withdraw from Gaza to a parliamentary vote on October 25. He said the road map was Israel's only diplomatic plan, but that it could not be implemented without a Palestinian partner for peace.

EU ministers stressed that any withdrawal from Gaza could not replace a two-state solution for the Middle East conflict as foreseen in the road map for peace drafted by the United St ates, the United Nations, the EU and Russia.

The ministers added that the EU would not recognize any changes to the borders as they were before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Solana gave no details of his Middle East strategy proposals but said he would present them to EU foreign ministers when they next met on November 2, and added that they would not deviate from the road map.

"Nothing will take us away from the road map. That is a fundamental matter," he told a news briefing.

Sharon, meanwhile, is withholding his approval to wrap up the military operation in the northern Gaza Strip, despite the Israel Defense Forces' recommendation to withdraw.

The operation, called Days of Penitence, will therefore continue, despite the mounting criticism in the General Staff and Southern Command.

Since the start of the operation on September 30, 114 Palestinians have been killed as of Sunday night, of whom 39 were civilians.

Islamic Jihad leader survives air strike
An I srael Air Force missile strike on the home of a senior Islamic Jihad leader injured five people in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday.

The blasts wounded five people, two critically, hospital officials said.

The house belonged to local Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Sheikh Khalil, who was not at home at the time, Islamic Jihad leaders said.

"Sheikh Khalil is in good shape ... and he will remain a thorn in the throat of the Jews and will teach them a lesson as he has done before," said local Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Abdel Rahman.

Khalil had lost an arm in a previous attempt on his life and lost a leg in an accident while working with explosives.

Islamic Jihad said none of the wounded were militants.

The army had no immediate comment.

Medics initially said Khalil was critically wounded in the blast, but relatives later said he was unhurt. They said that two of his brothers were wounded in the strike. The explosion hit the house and set off a series of explosions there, witnesses added.