DOZENS of Palestinian youth gathered outside the Ramallah offices of the European mission training the Palestinian police on Friday morning, to protest Europe’s policies in Palestine.

Activists chanted ‘We don’t want euros and dollars, we want revolution and revolutionaries’, and ‘Europe go home, our prisoners need a final decision’.

European officials tried to negotiate with protesters, but the group refused to talk to them.

Protest organisers ‘Palestinians for Dignity’, a group of youth activists, said they had three demands from the European Commission.

They criticised a statement by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week calling for Israel to ‘do all it can to preserve the health’ of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

Europe should issue a clear statement demanding that Israel immediately release Palestinian detainees on hunger strike, the group insisted.

Further, they called on Europe to review partnership agreements with Israel to ensure they meet legal and humanitarian obligations, while investigating European companies that support Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise.

On Tuesday, a European Parliament committee approved the ‘Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products’ between the European Union and Israel.

The decision, which removes trade barriers for Israeli medical products, will go before parliament in October, and is opposed by lawmakers from the main left-wing coalition.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture ministry in Gaza on Friday said it would not allow the import of fruits to the enclave in order to protect the local market.

The announcement came as Israel promised new measures to facilitate the entry and exit of goods at Gaza crossings. Several products will be removed from a blacklist permitting their import to Gaza, an Israeli official said Thursday.

Marketing director in Gaza’s agriculture ministry, Tahsen al-Saqa, said that no fruits would be imported from Israel, with the exception of apples and bananas, as farmers in Gaza grew their own guava, dates, citrus fruits and grapes.

Al-Saqa added that Israel had prevented the import of vegetables to Gaza for several years, and that the enclave had become self-sufficient. ‘We have 98 per cent self-sufficiency in (producing) vegetables.’

In the West Bank, a once-flourishing agriculture industry has been devastated, in part due to competition from Israeli produce, as well as Israeli control of Palestinian water resources and confiscation of agricultural land. Israeli farmers, who have greater access to water, sell their produce on Palestinian markets that farmers in Gaza cannot access.

Israel controls imports and exports into Gaza through its military blockade while, in the West Bank, Israel influences the Palestinian market through the Paris Protocol signed between Israel and the PLO. The cancellation of the Paris Protocol was a key demand of protesters who took to the streets across the West Bank earlier this month.

Israeli, regional and West Bank markets have been cut off from Gaza traders since 2007 when Israel tightened restrictions on Gaza after Hamas took control of the strip. Hamas had been democratically elected a year earlier.

Israel has allowed a limited number of trucks to export strawberries and carnations to European markets after pressure from the EU, but those account for a fraction of the exports that left the Gaza Strip prior to Israel’s blockade, al-Saqa said.

Khatib Mansour, director of the Israeli army’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said Thursday that Israel would permit furniture and clothes to be exported from Gaza to the West Bank.

Israel’s blockade destroyed Gaza’s export-dependent economy. The World Bank says the private sector will not recover until access to its traditional markets in Israel and the West Bank is restored.

In recent reports ahead of a PA donor conference this month, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations have warned of a worsening economic crisis in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

‘We should all be concerned about Gaza’s future if there is no change to the current untenable situation,’ UN special envoy Robert Serry said Thursday.

l Israeli troops killed three militants along the Israel-Egypt border on Friday, and an Israeli soldier also died in the exchange of fire, the army said.

A group of militants entered Israel through a gap in fence construction halfway down the border and opened fire on Israeli soldiers, an army spokesman said. A nearby patrol returned fire, killing three people, he said.

Security sources said earlier that at least two soldiers were wounded.

The identities and nationalities of the militants have not been confirmed, the military spokesman said. An explosive belt was found on one of the casualties, an army statement said.

An Egyptian security official said one of the fighters died when a bomb he was carrying detonated and the other two were killed in a gunbattle with Israeli forces.

Egyptian security forces took control of the area and deployed soldiers. They asked Israeli forces there to refrain from firing toward Egyptian territory.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian army delegation met with Israeli forces near the border to check the bodies of those who were killed, and asked Israel to hand them over.

The Egyptian authorities received an urgent notice from the Israeli side before the militants were killed, a reporter explained.

He added that security forces in the northern Sinai say they received information about an impending attack.

On August 5th militants attacked and killed 16 Egyptian border guards at a post on Sinai’s border with Israel.

In June, Israeli troops shot dead two militants who fired on a border crew, and in July killed another man trying to infiltrate the Sinai border.

The open desert border between Israel and Egypt was relatively quiet for three decades after the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979. But Israel says that since the fall of Mubarak, Cairo has lost its grip on the Sinai.

Israel has been building a fence along the 260 km-long frontier with Egypt’s Sinai desert and it is due to be completed by the end of 2012.