By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 7:47 pm ET
LONDON – The English town of Worcester is seeking sister city status with Gaza City in a gesture of solidarity with Palestinians, a government official said Thursday.
Councilor Alan Amos told Britain’s Channel 4 News the twinning would draw attention to what he called the “dreadful occupation” and blockade that Gazans had suffered. The BBC says Worcester City Council backed the move this week.
Sister city status in Britain typically involves the organization of school visits, trade links, and cultural exchanges, but it was unclear whether authorities in Worcester, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of London, had discussed their plans with their counterparts in Gaza. Calls to the city council went unanswered late Thursday.
Britain’s foreign policy would likely make any official exchange awkward as the Gaza Strip is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which the Britain considers a terrorist organization. Britain’s Foreign Office has warned its citizens that travel in Gaza would be “reckless.”
Whatever the difficulties, the proposed pairing would make Worcester the first British municipality to twin with Gaza City, according to the U.K.’s Local Government Association.
Inhabited by about half a million people, Gaza underwent 38 years of occupation until Israel’s withdrawal in 2005, but the area remained the scene of frequent Israeli-Palestinian violence. An Israeli offensive aimed at stemming rocket fire from the area earlier this year killed some 1,300 Palestinians, according to human rights groups.
Worcester, a town of about 94,000 known principally for its fine porcelain and tangy Worcestershire Sauce, is already twinned with its American namesake: Worcester, Mass., according to the government association.