European foreign ministers have called for “immediate pauses” in fighting and “humanitarian corridors” to help deliver aid amid the “dire situation” in Gaza.
However, they stopped short of enforcing a blanket ceasefire. There was growing clarity among the EU’s 27 foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday as they sought a common position on Israel’s intensifying military operations in Gaza following the October 7 attack by Hamas. The EU, seeking to speak with one voice on the politically divisive Israeli-Palestinian issue, issued a new joint statement on Sunday evening. In it, member states called for “immediate pauses in hostilities and the establishment of humanitarian corridors” as well as the release of the remaining hostages, but also reiterated Israel’s “right to defend itself by international law and international humanitarian law”. ” Humanitarian situation dangerous EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the call for a pause in the fighting was designed to allow much-needed aid to enter Gaza. It came after the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said that during Israeli retaliation more than 11,000 people were killed in the October 7 attacks, and as NGOs warn of worsening conditions in Gaza hospitals.
“Less than 10% of what’s necessary is getting through,” Borrell told reporters. But Sunday’s statement also condemned Hamas, which the EU designates as a terrorist organization, for “using hospitals and civilians as human shields”. Israel accuses the militant group of integrating into Gaza’s civilian infrastructure for protection. Several EU ministers, including the Czech Jan Lipavský, made these comments in Brussels on Monday. Full ceasefire still divisive The new EU joint statement came after President Emmanuel Macron on Friday added France to a small list of EU countries – Spain, Belgium, and Ireland – calling for a full ceasefire, prompting a sharp rebuke from Israel.
Other European countries such as Germany, which has closely supported Israel since the October 7 attacks by Hamas, have refused to support the ceasefire, arguing that it could benefit Hamas and undermine Israel’s right to self-defense. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters on Monday that she “completely” understands the impulse to call for one “in this terrible situation where innocent children, people, women, mothers, families are not only suffering so terribly but also dying.” But such demands left important questions unanswered, Baerbock said after her weekend visit to the region. “How can calling for a ceasefire urgently and now, in this dire situation, ensure that Israel’s security is guaranteed?” she asked, also asking what would happen to the hostages taken by Hamas. Macron hardens tone The EU’s official position has not changed much in recent weeks, Hugh Lovatt of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) told DW on Monday.
But Macron’s change of tone could prove important, he argued. “I suspect that France’s position will probably make some other member states move towards a truce. But it will never convince the Germans. It won’t convince the Hungarians or the Austrians,” he said, referring to some of Israel’s closest EU countries. supporters in the current conflict.
While it was unlikely to change the EU’s official position, he said the signals coming from Europe were nonetheless being heard in Israel and its main ally, the United States. “Israel is very aware that it probably has a clock on its operations,” Lovatt said. At some point, discussions will have to move toward a ceasefire, in Lovatt’s view. While Israel had the right to defend itself and respond to Hamas attacks, he said that ultimately “there is no military solution in Gaza.” “Israel may make some tactical gains by killing Hamas, destroying the tunnels, but militarily it will not eliminate the threat of Hamas,” the ECFR analyst said.
Image Source: The Times of Israel