Foreign Ministry said to propose EU force in Gaza

The Times of Israel: Two weeks ago, the Foreign Ministry proposed to the Israeli cabinet a plan for stationing foreign troops in the Gaza Strip to monitor rebuilding and demilitarization efforts in the wake of the war there this summer, Haaretz reported Sunday.

According to the report, the forces would be empowered to confiscate weapons and contraband materials to ensure that Hamas will not be able to rearm itself.

Israel has demanded that Hamas be disarmed if it is to ease longstanding restrictions on the Strip and entertain the prospect of a seaport and airport in Gaza. Hamas, meanwhile, has vehemently rejected demilitarization.

The international force described in the report would be temporary, with an extendable mandate that would initially be set at a single year, and would preferably be composed of a European Union coalition, although the document reportedly allowed for the possibility of a NATO force, a UN force or a general Western coalition.

According to the report, the Foreign Ministry recommended that the force operate under a charter similar to UNIFIL, the UN force in southern Lebanon, which would require the approval of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, and ideally be established under the aegis of a UN Security Council resolution.

The force, whose main tasks would be “rehabilitation and disarmament,” would function at various locations inside the Strip itself, and at border crossings, especially the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the surrounding area, the report said.

The European soldiers would be armed and given the mandate to “deal with threats from Hamas and other terror organizations,” including inspecting UN schools and other international facilities to ensure they are not being used to hide weapons or other materials deemed dangerous by Israel.

The report was given to Israel’s security cabinet on August 21, and was based on ideas floated by various EU countries, an unnamed Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying.

However, the EU has not proposed a concrete plan for international monitors in Gaza; and Egypt, which would have to be a partner in such an agreement, has so far been cold to the idea.

The 50-day Israel-Hamas war this summer ended on August 26 with an open-ended truce. Talks on a long-term ceasefire agreement are expected to take place next month in Cairo, and it is likely that the idea of international monitors in Gaza will be on the agenda.

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