Westerwelle visits Gaza, refuses to meet Hamas

Germany’s foreign minister called on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and refused to meet with Hamas officials on a visit to the coastal strip.

Guido Westerwelle crossed into Gaza from Israel during a visit to the region Monday.

“The blockade of Gaza supports extremism and weakens the moderates, and we should not forget that Gaza is part of the two-state solution and that is what we are working for,” Westerwelle said in Gaza.

Westerwelle also called for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. The foreign minister met Sunday with Shalit’s father in Jerusalem.

Westerwelle visited a United Nations school, met with local businessmen and toured a water treatment plant funded with German money while in Gaza, Haaretz reported.

He is the first German minister to visit Gaza in four years.

Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas took over the strip.