Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has described Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth."

Mr. Carter was speaking Sunday at a literary festival in Wales. He told The Guardian newspaper that the Israeli blockade has led to what he calls the "imprisonment" of Gaza's 1.6 million Palestinians.

Israel and Egypt sealed their borders with Gaza after the Hamas militant group seized control of the territory last June. Israel continues to send fuel and humanitarian supplies to Gaza while blocking the regular crossing of people and goods.

Israeli leaders say the blockade is necessary to stop Gaza militants from firing rockets at Israeli towns.

Mr. Carter said the European Union's lack of criticism of the Gaza blockade is "embarrassing." He said the EU should establish relations with Hamas if the group agrees to a cease-fire in Gaza.

Mr. Carter traveled to Syria last month for talks with Hamas' exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal. Israel condemned Mr. Carter for meeting Meshaal, while the U.S. State Department said Hamas showed no change in its policy towards Israel after talking with the former president.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.