Blair makes surprise visit to Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Tony Blair made an unannounced visit to Gaza.

It was the Middle East Quartet envoy’s first visit to Gaza since he was appointed in 2007 to oversee progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace for the Quartet members — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Blair was scheduled to meet Sunday morning with Gaza representatives, but not members of Hamas. He is on his way to a Gaza reconstruction conference to be held Monday in Egypt.

Blair visited a U.N. school hit by Israeli fire. His visit came at the same time as a visit by British International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, who pledged nearly $43 million to the Gaza reconstruction.

Blair told the Arabic news station Al-Jazeera that "We need a different strategy for Gaza, rebuilding infrastructure so that basic life can continue."

The former British prime minister said Israel’s new government must live up to its obligations made to the peace process.

"We have to work with whoever the Israeli people elect," Blair said. "Let’s test it out, not just assume it won’t work."

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