عاجل

البث المباشر

France to send frigate to patrol waters off Gaza

Says in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel

France will deploy a frigate carrying helicopters to international waters off the coast of Gaza to participate in a mission against arms trafficking in the territory, the presidency said Friday.

A statement from President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said the surveillance, aimed at preventing arms trafficking by sea to Hamas-ruled Gaza, would be carried out in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel.

"What is urgent now is to consolidate the ceasefire, and that requires humanitarian action, a total halt on arms trafficking to Gaza, the durable reopening of the border crossings, reconstruction and inter-Palestinian reconciliation," the statement said.

Sarkozy went on two diplomatic tours of the Middle East during the Israeli offensive in Gaza to try and obtain a ceasefire. He said that France was ready to help bring back peace in whatever way it could.

Israel's 22-day offensive, launched to stop Hamas fighters from firing rockets at southern Israel, killed 1,300 Palestinians and injured more than 5,000 others. Thirteen Israelis were killed: 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rocket fire.

The statement from Sarkozy's office called for close coordination as quickly as possible between the new U.S. administration and European partners to propose complementary actions to combat arms trafficking by land and by sea.

"These actions must be matched by a total and permanent reopening of the border crossings to Gaza. That is why the president reiterated his call for a rapid re-activation of the Rafah checkpoint, under European control in which France will take part fully," the statement said.

Israel on Friday dismissed a number of other international calls for a full reopening of border crossings with Gaza.