The Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard has threatened Israel with sanctions unless it agrees to concessions including ending the “blockade of Gaza” and stopping “illegal settlements”. Speaking to the Danish media, Lidegaard indicated that the EU would join in with enacting tough sanctions, The Local has reported.
Israel is due to meet indirectly with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Cairo today to consolidate the cease-fire following the August 26th truce which ended the latest round of fighting. “If nothing happens in the peace talks this time, and if we don’t see a new pattern of response from Israel’s side, then we will need to discuss the possibility of taking new steps including changes to our trade relations with Israel,” Lidegaard told Jyllands-Posten.
“I hope that it doesn’t come to that, but I think that the EU’s policies are moving in that direction,” he said, adding that Hamas and other militants must also lay down their weapons.
Lidegaard has made his condemnation of Israeli force against Gaza known before. In July he wrote on his Facebook page: “I see both myself and Denmark as friends of Israel, but Israel doesn’t always make it easy for its friends to defend the country’s actions when so many innocent men, women and children are killed.”
His recent comments were criticised by his opponents in the Conservative and Danish People’s parties, with spokespeople for both parties immediately decrying the policy. Lidegaard’s colleagues also distanced themselves from his remarks with the trade minister, Mogens Jensen telling Jyllands-Posten: “Only when a broad international coalition can agree on sanctions do I think it is reasonable to consider that action. I’m not at a point where I can say that there is a need for sanctions.”
The talks in Cairo were under threat today as there was some doubt over whether the Palestinian delegations would attend following the deaths of two Palestinians by IDF hands this morning. The Palestinians were suspects wanted for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens, Gil-Ad Shaer,16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16 earlier this summer – murders which sparked the latest round of fighting between the two countries.
The two suspects, Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha were surrounded by IDF forces this morning and were killed in an exchange of fire. “After consultations within the Palestinian delegation and brothers in Gaza and abroad it was decided to continue the Cairo meetings,” Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official told Reuters, saying that Israel must not be offered any pretext “to escape from commitments” following the August 26th truce, which stipulated talks between the two parties on long term arrangements regarding the blockade of Gaza.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza said that the organization “praises the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Kawasme played in chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination will not weaken the resistance.”
Speaking on Palestinian radio, the governor of Hebron, Kamel Hmeid, said “It’s clear now the two martyrs, al-Kawasme and Abu Aysha, were assassinated this morning during a military operation in the Hebron University area. We condemn this crime, this assassination, as deliberate and premeditated murder.”
The Jerusalem Post has reported that the Palestinian delegation has accused Israel of timing the operation to purposefully stall talks, a claim which the IDF refuted. Brigadier-General Tamir Yadai, commander of the Judea and Samara Division, said, “We have been pursuing Marwan and Amar since June 20th. This has been a long and complex operation involving the Shin Bet, the IDF, and the Counter-Terrorism Unit.
“Yesterday evening we located their hiding spot, and since 1 a.m. we surrounded it. At a certain stage, they came out and opened fire. One was killed on the spot, and one fell into a pit and I assume he was killed.”