Palestinians being treated 'like animals'

GAZA CITY (AFP) - Former US president Jimmy Carter on Tuesday met Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in the Gaza Strip, where he called for a lifting of Israel's blockade, saying Palestinians are being treated "like animals." Following the talks, Carter called for an end of "all violence" against both Israelis and Palestinians. "This is holy land for us all and my hope is that we can have peace... all of us are children of Abraham," he said at a joint news conference with Haniya, Prime Minister of the Hamas government in the Palestinian enclave. Haniya in turn said Hamas supported the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day war. "If there is a real plan to resolve the Palestinian question on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967 and with full sovereignty, we are in favour of it," Haniya said. He also praised US President Barack Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo to the Muslim world. Earlier Carter denounced the Israeli blockade and the destruction wrought by its 22-day military offensive against Gaza in December and January. "My primary feeling today is one of grief and despair and an element of anger when I see the destruction perpetrated against innocent people," Carter said as he toured the impoverished territory. "Tragically, the international community too often ignores the cries for help and the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings," he said. "The starving of 1.5m human beings of the necessities of life - never before in history has a large community like this been savaged by bombs and missiles and then denied the means to repair itself," Carter said at a UN school graduation ceremony in Gaza City. The United States and Europe "must try to do all that is necessary to convince Israel and Egypt to allow basic goods into Gaza," he said. "I have to hold back tears when I see the deliberate destruction that has been wracked against your people," he said at an American school destroyed in Israel's attack, saying it was "deliberately destroyed by bombs from F16s made in my country." "I feel partially responsible for this as must all Americans and Israelis," Carter said. Meanwhile, two Israeli human rights groups said Israel is making it near-impossible for Gaza residents to move to the West Bank, even in humanitarian cases, two Israeli human rights groups said on Tuesday. "The procedure constitutes an escalation in Israel's policy of separation between Gaza and the West Bank, undermining the prospect of a viable Palestinian state," said Joel Greenberg of the Hamoked Centre for the Defence of the Individual. "Israel is preventing civilians from changing their place of residence using the vague pretext that it is responding to the security-political situation in the Gaza Strip," he said at a joint conference with the Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement. "Israel is separating parents from their children and husbands from wives, and denying Palestinians the basic right to family life as well as their right to choose their place of residence," the groups said.

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