Finland's Minister for International Cooperation and Development visited the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday; Heidi Hautala took the opportunity to criticise the Israeli siege imposed since 2006. She called for the siege to be lifted forthwith because it "hinders development" in the region.
As well as meeting officials from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Hautala visited summer camps arranged for Palestinian children. She noted that the Israeli siege prevents young Palestinians from taking full advantage of the facilities that they have for education and recreation. Ms Hautala said that she would support any EU calls for an end to the siege.
The minister visited the West Bank before going to Gaza and said that she saw how the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank disrupt Palestinian life.
Thanking the minister for her visit to the region, UNRWA's Commissioner General Filippo Grandi said that her country's support for the agency is instrumental in the implementation of its education, health and economic programmes.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad