PARIS - France is taking back a water treatment plant that would have helped civilians in Gaza after Israel prevented it from entering the Palestinian territory, the foreign ministry said Friday.
"Unfortunately, for reasons that we find hard to explain, the water treatment plant was not let in," said foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier.
Part of a humanitarian aid package, the treatment system would have provided some 2,000 cubic metres of drinkable water per day to civilians in Gaza who were cut off during Israel's 22-day military offensive.
A team of 51 civilian security officials were on hand to help set up and operate the plant.
Israeli authorities had been blocking delivery of the treatment plant at a border crossing with Gaza since Sunday, according to the foreign ministry.
"It is with great regret that we have decided to repatriate it," said Chevallier. "It seems to us it would have been useful for civilians."
Aid groups have said three-quarters of Gaza households were left without water in their homes after Israel launched its offensive.
The foreign ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador on Wednesday to complain about access to humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in Gaza and over a European diplomatic convoy that was blocked for six hours at a crossing.
Israel's war on Gaza, launched on December 27, killed more than 1,300 people, mainly civilians, and wounded more than 5,400.