March 2, 2009
TONY Blair yesterday made his first visit to the Gaza Strip since he was appointed an international envoy to the Middle East.
The former Prime Minister warned that aid to the devastated Palestinian territory would be pointless without a renewed drive for peace.
Mr Blair did not meet officials from Hamas, the region’s ruling party, during his lightning stopover, but the visit was coordinated with Hamas security, his aides said.
He toured the Israeli town of Sderot, the target of more than 5,000 Hamas rocket attacks in recent years.
Mr Blair said: ‘ I wanted to come to hear for myself firsthand from people in Gaza, whose lives have been so badly impacted by the recent conflict.
‘ These are the people who need to be the focus of all our efforts for peace and progress from now on.’
Mr Blair is today heading for a conference in Egypt, where it is expected that international donors will pledge millions of pounds to rebuild Gaza.
His trip came only hours before Hillary Clinton arrived in the region for her first visit as U. S. Secretary of State. International Development Minister Douglas Alexander is also currently in Gaza City, where he pledged £ 30million in UK aid.
In Jerusalem, outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert threatened Hamas with a ‘ painful, sharp, strong and uncompromising response’ after 11 rockets were fired across the border.
One scored a direct hit on an empty school.