EU commissioner plans humanitarian mission to Gaza
European Union Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said Tuesday he planned to travel on a humanitarian mission to Gaza and Israel later this week, dpa reported.
In a statement, Michel said the purpose of his two-day visit would be to "see for myself the suffering of the civilian populations in both Gaza and southern Israel."
The commissioner, who held what he described as "constructive" talks in Brussels with Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit late on Monday, said "the setting up of fast-track procedures for humanitarian access and delivery should be considered a priority."
EU foreign ministers are to meet twice with top officials from the Middle East this week in Brussels to discuss an international response to the ongoing crisis.
The first meeting, a working dinner, is to be held on Wednesday evening and will bring together the foreign ministers of the EU's 27 member states and Israel.
The second, on Sunday evening, will include the EU's 27 representatives and top officials from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority, the Czech presidency of the EU said.
Commissioner Michel planned to visit the region on Sunday and Monday.
The European Commission provided more than 73 million euros (96 million dollars) in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Territories in 2008. Just over half of the money went to the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian death toll resulting from Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip has exceeded 1,400, according to latest estimates from the Palestinian side.