Israel 'has wrecked £11m EU schemes'

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The Independent Online

Israel was blamed yesterday for destroying more than €17m (£11m) of European Union-funded property in Palestine, including a school building programme, the airport, a seaport, broadcasting studios and an irrigation scheme.

Chris Patten, the EU foreign affairs commissioner, said he was "shocked and astounded at what is happening", adding: "We ask whether it really contributes to security if everything we try to support with EU assistance is destroyed."

EU officials have not ruled out asking Israel for compensation and say they will raise the issue with Aerial Sharon's government, although privately they accept there is little prospect of getting money back.

One Israeli source said no formal communication had yet been sent by the EU and therefore the figures for destruction were impossible to check. However, he added that this is a "price that has to be paid because of the war in the territories; Israel is paying a much greater price."

According to the list, compiled by EU member states and the European Commission, the most costly destruction was at Gaza international airport, which suffered an estimated €9.3m of damage.The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Ramallah was wrecked over the weekend, with €3.3m of damage.Other damage included a schools construction scheme funded by the commission (€23,000), and a Belgian-sponsored irrigation project (€11,000).

The European Commission and the EU member states are the authority's main donors; the European Community alone spent €467m in supporting the Palestinians between 1999 and 2001.