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Gaza rocket kills man during EU chief’s visit

An immigrant Thai farm worker was killed in Israel yesterday by a rocket fired from Gaza as the EU's foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton made a rare high-profile visit to the territory.

Baroness Ashton's trip was her first to the region as the EU's High Representative, and unusual for a European official of her rank.

She had been in Gaza for about an hour when the rocket was launched.

An extreme group said to be inspired by al Qaida claimed responsibility for the rocket, which tore through the roof of a greenhouse in Moshav Netvi Hasara, close to northern Gaza's border, and killed the man.

Baroness Ashton said that she was “extremely shocked” by the rocket attack. “I condemn any violence,” she said. “We have got to find a peaceful solution to the issues and problems... we have to move forward.”

Silvan Shalom, Israeli vice Prime Minister, said after the attack: “This is a crossing of the red line which Israel cannot accept. The Israeli response will be appropriate. It will be strong.” Some Hamas police stations in Gaza City were evacuated in anticipation of a possible retaliatory attack.

During her three-hour visit Baroness Ashton toured Abed Rabbo, where some of the worst destruction occurred during the winter offensive in 2008, visited UN facilities, a school for deaf children, and had lunch with a small group of prominent civil society leaders. The former British minister flew to Moscow last night to join US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a meeting of the US-UN-Russia-EU Quartet on the Middle East.

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Only two foreign ministers of EU member states have visited Gaza in the past year. Baroness Ashton was repeatedly urged to help end the two-and-a-half-year siege of Gaza, imposed after Hamas took full control of the strip in June 2007.

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