The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, accused the Israeli government on Tuesday of violating international law by imposing a total blockade of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza in response to the bloody attack carried out by Hamas fighters in Israel this weekend -end.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of foreign affairs ministers from the community bloc on this crisis, he also indicated that an “overwhelming majority” of ministers were in favor of maintaining the aid paid to the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.
These comments come after an outcry caused on Monday by the announcement of the suspension of this aid, made by the European Commissioner for Enlargement, the Hungarian Oliver Varhelyi, which was subsequently denied. France, in particular, has expressed its opposition to freezing aid.
Josep Borrell had invited the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers to participate by videoconference in the meeting, organized in Oman where discussions with the Gulf Cooperation Council were already planned.
But, according to representatives, the head of Israeli diplomacy Eli Cohen refused to take part in a meeting during which Palestinian Minister Riyad al Maliki could also speak. Neither minister ultimately attended the meeting.
Although he repeated that the EU condemned the attacks carried out by Hamas in Israel, which killed more than 1,000 people, most of them civilians, Josep Borrell nevertheless stressed that the Israeli response must respect international humanitarian law.
The decision to impose a total blockade on Gaza, where 900 people have been killed in Israeli strikes since Saturday, according to local officials, contravenes international standards, he said.
“Israel has the right to defend itself but it must be done in accordance with international law, humanitarian law, and certain decisions are contrary to international law,” Josep Borrell told reporters after the meeting.
He cited the United Nations finding that “cutting off water, electricity and food to a massive civilian population is contrary to international law.” Israel criticized the UN statement, accusing it of not denouncing Hamas as “terrorist”.
Josep Borrell said the EU was not cooperating with Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the EU. But he stressed that it was vital that Brussels continued to provide aid to Palestinian civilians through the Palestinian Authority. “Collective punishment against all Palestinians would be inequitable and unproductive,” he said.
The EU presents itself as the main source of external aid to the Palestinians, with, according to European Commission data, some 283 million euros paid last year to the Palestinian Authority and the UN agency in charge. Palestinian refugees and other projects.
Oliver Varhelyi’s announcement on Monday, however, exposed the long-standing deep divisions within the EU over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A Commission spokesperson said during the day that Oliver Varhelyi had made the announcement without consulting his peers or even the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. According to diplomats, European governments criticized the announcement behind closed doors, while some had already done so publicly.
The Commission responded by saying it would examine the aid to ensure it was not misused by “terrorists”, but that payment would continue during this review.
This article is originally published on challenges.fr