Ashton visits protest tent of family of soldier held in Gaza
European Union foreign police chief Catherine Ashton called on Hamas Monday to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit it has been holding captive in the Gaza Strip for more than four years, DPA reported.
She spoke as she began the third day of a three-day tour of Gaza, Israel and the West Bank by visiting the protest tent erected by the soldier's family outside the Jerusalem residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In Gaza Sunday, she called on Israel to also lift its near-total ban on exports from the strip and further open its border crossings into the Palestinian coastal enclave.
She also urged the Palestinian leadership to move into direct negotiations with Israel, but expressed "deep concern about recent settlements activity in East Jerusalem."
Ashton welcomed Israel's decision to greatly ease the import of goods into Gaza and called its security concerns "legitimate," but she described its blockade of the strip as "unacceptable, unsustainable and counterproductive."