France sends frigate to patrol waters off Gaza
France is sending a frigate carrying helicopters to patrol international waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip, French presidency said.
France is sending a frigate carrying helicopters to patrol international waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip as part of efforts to consolidate the ceasefire there, the French presidency said on Friday.
A statement from President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said the surveillance, aimed at preventing arms trafficking by sea to Hamas-ruled Gaza, would be carried out in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel.
"What is urgent now is to consolidate the ceasefire, and that requires humanitarian action, a total halt on arms trafficking to Gaza, the durable reopening of the border crossings, reconstruction and inter-Palestinian reconciliation," the statement said.
Sarkozy went on two diplomatic tours of the Middle East during the Israeli offensive in Gaza to try and obtain a ceasefire. He has said that France was ready to help bring back peace in whatever way it could.
Israel's 22-day offensive killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, a third of them children, and wounded at least 5,300 others. Thirteen Israelis were killed: 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rocket fire.
"These actions must be matched by a total and permanent reopening of the border crossings to Gaza. That is why the president reiterated his call for a rapid re-activation of the Rafah checkpoint, under European control in which France will take part fully," the statement said.
Israel on Friday dismissed a number of other international calls for a full reopening of border crossings with Gaza.
Reuters Last Mod: 25 Ocak 2009, 12:43