The European Commission is tripling its humanitarian assistance to Gaza as the bloc comes under mounting pressure to present a coherent policy on the Israel-Gaza crisis.
The EU’s executive arm will increase its humanitarian funding to Gaza from €25 million to €75 million. The announcement was made following a phone call Saturday between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who has been one of the leading international figures calling for restraint from Israel in response to the Hamas attack.
Von der Leyen and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola visited Israel on Friday to pay tribute to the victims of Hamas’ attack on Israel, which have claimed the lives of more than 1,300 people. But they have received some push-back for failing to publicly call for restraint by Israel as it launches an attack on Gaza. In contrast, EU foreign ministers earlier in the week stressed the need for restraint and called for food, water and medicines to be allowed into Gaza as well as condemning the Hamas attack on Israel.
European Council chief Charles Michel has convened an extraordinary virtual meeting of EU leaders for Tuesday to establish a “clear unified course of action that reflects the complexity of the unfolding situation.”
“We stand in full solidarity with the people of Israel and the victims of the terrorist attacks,” Michel said in a statement, but added that “the unfolding tragic scenes in the Gaza Strip resulting from the siege and the lack of basic needs combined with the destruction brought by significant shelling, are raising alarm bells in the international community.”
The announcements follow a week of mixed messaging from the EU on the crisis in the Middle East. The EU commissioner responsible for enlargement announced on Monday that all Palestinian aid would be suspended, only for the EU to clarify later that the aid in fact would not be halted but put under review.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell — who as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has responsibility for EU foreign policy — has also been at odds with statements from the European Commission since the crisis began, taking a more critical stance on the activities of the Israeli government than either von der Leyen or Metsola.
In one instance, a European Commission spokesman noted that civilians must be warned and alerted about incoming military operations, allowing them time to leave. “This is what Israel has done,” the spokesman said on Friday, answering questions on the EU’s response to the crisis after Israel called for the evacuation of over 1 million people from northern Gaza.
But a short time later, Borrell said that warnings “must be realistic.” It’s “certainly utterly unrealistic that one million people can move in 24 hours,” he said.
Several EU leaders have called for Israel to ensure it adheres to international law in its response to the attack by Hamas. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said that Israel has the right to defend itself, but must respect international law. Spanish leader Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that the evacuation of Palestinians from Gaza is not endorsed by international law, calling for a two-state solution to the conflict.