Immediate humanitarian pause in Gaza urged by 26 EU nations

E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell claimed on Monday that a Rafah offensive would put civilians at grave risk.

By Charles Bybelezer, JNS

Every European Union nation except for Hungary signed a joint statement on Monday calling for “an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a lasting ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war.

The statement also urged “the unconditional release of all [134 Israeli] hostages and the provision of humanitarian assistance” to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to Reuters.

The 26 E.U. countries minus Budapest, a staunch ally of Jerusalem, also warned Israel against launching an offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold.

“We ask the Israeli government not to take military action in Rafah that would worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance,” the EU ministers said.

E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell claimed on Monday that a Rafah offensive would put civilians at grave risk.

“We have to continue putting pressure on Israel to make them understand that there are so many people in the streets of Rafah, it will be impossible to avoid civilian casualties,” he said.

“This, certainly, will be against the respect of humanitarian law,” he added.

Borrel noted the lack of unanimity in the bloc, however, saying, “naturally, this doesn’t strengthen our position. Europe can only play a role when it is united.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Saturday night that Israel would continue the war until “total victory” is achieved, adding that those urging Jerusalem to forgo an operation in Rafah were effectively calling for the Jewish state’s defeat.

“I speak with world leaders every day. I tell them decisively: Israel will fight until we achieve total victory. And indeed, this includes action in Rafah, of course after we allow the civilians found in the combat zones to evacuate to safe areas,” said Netanyahu in an address to the nation.

“Whoever wants to prevent us from operating in Rafah is telling us in effect to lose the war. I will not allow this…. We will not surrender to any pressure. We will not surrender, because we are a people of heroes. We will not surrender because we are a people that desires life. We will not surrender because we must—must—defeat the evil,” he added.

According to Israel there are four Hamas battalions positioned in the city along the Egyptian border, the population of which has swelled to some 1.5 million, more than half of Gaza’s total of 2.3 million, after the Israel Defense Forces directed northern Gazans to a humanitarian zone there when fighting began in October.

Last week, Borrell suggested that the United States and other countries halt weapons shipments to Israel over allegations that “too many people are being killed” in the war against Hamas.

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The remarks came against the backdrop of U.S. President Joe Biden’s characterization of Israel’s operation as being “over the top” and Western diplomats accusing the Jewish state of using excessive force.

“If you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed. Isn’t that logical?” said Borrell.

“Everybody goes to Tel Aviv begging: Please don’t do that, protect civilians, don’t kill so many,” he continued. “But [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu doesn’t listen [to] anyone. They are going to evacuate [civilians from Rafah]. Where? To the moon?”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, responding to the comments, said, “Minister Borrell, you don’t want to listen to anyone. We clarified and will clarify again. Israel acts according to the international laws of war and allows the Gazans to reach safe areas.”

Katz went on to state, “In fact, Israel cares more about the residents of Gaza than Hamas does. They prevent them from leaving. We permit it,” adding that “the calls to prevent Israel from having weapons are actually calls to prevent Israel from destroying Hamas. It will not happen. We will destroy Hamas.”

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Following a tour of Kibbutz Be’eri, where Hamas terrorists butchered more than 100 people during their Oct. 7 terror assault on Israel, Borrell implored the Jewish state “not to be consumed by rage.”

“One horror does not justify another. … I think that is what the best friends of Israel can tell you,” said the E.U. foreign policy chief, speaking at a press conference alongside then-Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

Last month, Borrell demanded that the international community impose a “solution” to the conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

“What we have learned over the last 30 years, and what we are learning now with the tragedy experienced in Gaza, is that the solution must be imposed from outside,” he said.

“Peace will only be achieved in a lasting manner if the international community gets involved intensely to achieve it and imposes a solution,” he added, referring to the U.S., Europe and Arab countries.

In October, Borrell slammed Israel’s response to Hamas and appeared to call for a ceasefire, leading to criticism from E.U. foreign ministers.