France to reopen cultural centre in Gaza


France is to reopen its cultural centre in the Gaza Strip, which closed down 18 months ago over security concerns, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

"Activities will resume gradually," ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said, noting that it was the only foreign cultural institution in Gaza.

The centre, which is based in Gaza City, closed down following a fire and a bomb attack in late 2014.

In October of that year, a fire swept through its offices in what Palestinian police at the time suggested may have been a criminal act. Two months later, its southern wall was damaged by two blasts which were claimed by a small Salafist extremist group.

No-one was injured in either incident.

A month later, some 200 radical Islamists tried to storm the building, threatening the lives of staff over cartoons that had been published by the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in response to a deadly attack on its Paris headquarters a week earlier.

The French Cultural Centre is the most visible foreign presence in the tiny Palestinian enclave, which is home to 1.8 million people.

Around 40 people with French or dual French-Palestinian nationality live in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement and has been subjected to a years-long Israeli military blockade.    (AFP)

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