‘Israel doesn’t make it easy on its friends’: FM

In his first public comments about the conflict in Gaza, Denmark's foreign minister Martin Lidegaard bemoaned the loss of civilian lives from Israel's military campaign.

'Israel doesn't make it easy on its friends': FM
An Israeli artillery fires a 155mm shell towards targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Scanpix
After nearly two weeks of violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that have claimed 370 lives, Denmark’s foreign minister broke his silence on Saturday and weighed in on the conflict. 
Martin Lidegaard wrote on Facebook that the Danish government “condemned” the actions of Hamas and said Israel “doesn’t make it easy for its friends” when its military attacks result in civilian casualties. 
“Hamas and other groups in Gaza fire deadly rockets at the Israeli people indiscriminately,” Lidegaard wrote. “Hamas must enter into and respect ceasefires.”
The Danish foreign minister also criticised Israel.
“On the other hand, it is unbearable to see the many civilian lives that have been claimed by Israel’s actions. I see both myself and Denmark as friends of Israel, but Israel doesn’t always make it easy for its friends to defend the country’s actions when so many innocent men, women and children are killed,” Lidegaard wrote. 
“Everyone understands Israel’s need to defend itself. But it is hard to explain why it should cost the lives of so many innocent people,” he continued. “Therefore, a ceasefire now.”
The BBC reported on Sunday that Israel was expanding its ground operation in Gaza, with local residents reporting the most intense attacks since the conflict began on July 8th, and according to AFP at least 20 people were killed in a major Israeli assault east of Gaza City on Sunday, bringing the total Palestinian death toll to 370.
The UN estimates that the vast majority of the 350 casualties have been civilians.
Lidegaard will meet with other EU foreign ministers this coming week to address both the Gaza conflict and the downing of a civilian plan in Ukraine.
Per Clausen of the left-wing Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) accused Lidegaard of being too weak in his criticism of Israel.
“I think that the Danish government should clearly condemn Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people and demand an immediate end to the attacks,” Clausen told Danmarks Radio. 

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Denmark sends emergency help to Gaza

Denmark will send an additional 25 million kroner in aid to Palestinian children in Gaza as Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard prepares to visit both Israel and Palestine next week.

Denmark sends emergency help to Gaza
Palestinian children play next to their homes in Beit Lahia in the northern of Gaza Strip on October 20th. Photo: Mohammed Abed/Scanpix
The trade and development minister, Mogens Jensen, has announced a new 25 million kroner ($4.2 million) emergency package aimed at getting Palestinian children back into school.
“The situation in Gaza is extremely serious and the massive destruction of schools, health clinics and agricultural land has made it hard for Palestinians to get back to everyday life, which was already difficult,” Jensen said in a statement. 
The development minister added that the destruction resulting from the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas should not take a back seat to other international challenges. 
“Despite Ebola and ISIL’s [an alternative name for Isis, ed.] ravages, the mass exodus from Syria and the famines threatening South Sudan and Somalia, we mustn't forget the Palestinians and the many children in Gaza. They are suffering and thus need our help and attention,” Jensen said. 
Shortly after the outbreak of violence in Gaza in early July, Denmark also sent an emergency package of 11 million kroner ($1.8 million). 
The United Nations has estimated that 373,000 children in Gaza will "require direct and specialised psycho-social support" this school year. According to the UN, more than 500 children were killed during the latest conflict with Israel.
In announcing the new contributions, the Foreign Ministry said that it continues to support a two-state solution for peace between Israel and Palestine. Last week, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that Denmark would not follow Sweden’s lead in recognising Palestine as a state. Thorning-Schmidt also declined to attach her name to a letter from the social democratic leaders of the other four Nordic countries condemning Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard also announced that he would visit both Israel and Palestine this week, meeting with high level representatives from both sides. 
“It’s important for me to see the conditions on the ground firsthand in this all too long and tragic conflict and to hear from the central players how we can move forward and create peace and security for both sides, along with better living conditions for the Palestinians,” Lidegaard said.