BRUSSELS, March 2 (Reuters) - EU president Slovenia on Sunday condemned Israel’s attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as disproportionate and violating international law, as a top EU foreign policy official left for the Middle East.
The strongly worded statement, which also condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinians from Gaza into Israel, was issued a day after Israeli forces killed 61 people in Gaza.
It was issued shortly before EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana left on a hastily arranged trip for Israel and the West Bank to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
"The Presidency condemns the recent disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) against the Palestinian population in Gaza," the statement issued by the Slovenian presidency said.
Saturday was the bloodiest day for Palestinians since an uprising against Israeli occupation began in 2000 and almost half the dead were civilians including children.
"The Presidency rejects collective punishment of the people of Gaza", it said, noting in particular the death of "innocent children."
"The Presidency expresses its sincere sympathies to the families of victims", it said.
"Such activities are contrary to international law. The Presidency at the same time reiterates its condemnation of continued firing of rockets into Israeli territory and calls for its immediate end". (Reporting by David Lawsky; Editing by Stephen Weeks)