British minister visits under-fire communities


LONDON (JTA) — A British foreign office minister at an Israeli kibbutz hit hard by rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip expressed hope for a new cease-fire.

Bill Ramell, the British minister for the Middle East, on Sunday in Kfar Aza expressed hope that the Egyptians could broker a new cease-fire, saying that “Hamas has not been defeated militarily; the Israeli people are not being cowered by the rocket attacks.” A six-month cease-fire ended Dec. 19.

Ramell also visited Ashkelon, and the area around Gaza including the Erez and Karni crossings, on a day when at least 15 rockets fired from Gaza landed in the area.

In Kfar Aza, Ramell met with residents who have experienced a barrage of rockets.

“I have come here to see for myself the impact of the situation on the ground," he told them. "I can see very clearly the traumatic effect that the repeated rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are having. People are traumatized. The rocket attacks are simply unacceptable.”

Ramell also addressed the situation of the Palestinians.

“I am also conscious, looking at the situation in Gaza, that the lack of humanitarian access, the lack of supplies, the lack of aid, the power cuts is creating a humanitarian crisis," he said.

Ramell added later that "I very strongly hope that the Egyptian-brokered process can continue because I think that the last six months, albeit intermittently broken by rocket attacks, have actually been a much better situation than in the past."

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