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Israel bars French visit to Gaza

Oct. 21, 2009 at 8:16 AM
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JERUSALEM, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rejected a request by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to visit Gaza, an Israeli official said.

Netanyahu said Hamas would take advantage of such a visit to create media frenzy and show the damage caused in Israel's military offensive in Gaza earlier this year, the official told Haaretz Wednesday.

The Israeli prime minister reportedly stated his reasons in a letter sent to Kouchner, the newspaper said.

Kouchner had planned to visit a local hospital in Gaza currently being rebuilt after Netanyahu approved a French government request to allow the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip last month, Haaretz said.

Netanyahu turned down similar requests submitted by European Union policy chief Javier Solana and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to visit Gaza in the past.

In September, while attending the United Nations General Assembly, French President Nikolas Sarkozy asked Netanyahu to permit the entry of building materials in order to rebuild the hospital damaged during Operation Cast Lead.

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