EU calls for Israel to explain Gaza offensive

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

BRUSSELS, Belgium: EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to call a meeting with Israel to get it to explain its actions in its Rafah offensive despite a UN court ruling, the bloc´s top diplomat said.

“We got the necessary unanimity to call for an association council with Israel to discuss the situation in Gaza,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. Borrell insisted that Israel should stop its attacks on Rafah after a ruling on Friday from the UN´s International Court of Justice.

The meeting with Israel would be held under an association agreement with the EU. Spain and Ireland have called on the EU to review the agreement over Israel´s Gaza offensive. EU foreign ministers on Monday also held talks with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar as part of a diplomatic push for a two-state solution after the Gaza war.

The push for a Palestinian state gained momentum last week when Ireland, Spain and Norway said they would recognise a Palestinian state from May 28. But the move underscored divisions within the 27-nation EU, which has struggled to reach a unified position on the Gaza war.

One area where the EU could play a practical role after the war is the possible monitoring of the Rafah border crossing from Gaza to Egypt. EU ministers are to discuss relaunching a mission suspended back in 2007 to monitor the crossing after calls from Israel and other states in the region. Borrell said he had received preliminary approval from ministers to plan for the mission.

“This could play a useful role in supporting the entry of people into Gaza, in and out, but this has to be done in accordance with the Palestinian Authority,” he said. Meanwhile, the UN human rights chief voiced “horror” on Monday at a deadly Israeli air strike on a displacement camp in Rafah in the south of the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, demanding “accountability”.

“The images from the camp are horrific and point to no apparent change in the methods and means of warfare used by Israel that have already led to so many civilian deaths,” Volker Turk said in a statement.

He voiced his “horror at the further loss of civilian life in Gaza”, the statement said. Israel´s military said the southern Rafah area had targeted and killed two senior Hamas operatives. It also sparked a fire that Palestinians and many Arab countries condemned as a “massacre”.

“Sunday´s strike underscores once again that there is literally no safe place in Gaza”, Turk said. He noted that the military had announced it would investigate. But, he said, “what is shockingly clear is that by striking such an area, densely packed with civilians, this was an entirely predictable outcome”. “It is crucial that such reviews lead to accountability and changes in policy or practices.”

He reiterated a call on all parties establish a ceasefire, stressing their obligation to protect civilians. “Israel must take immediate steps to protect civilians, and ensure they have access to essential humanitarian assistance, and release all those detained arbitrarily,” Turk said.