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First group of EU staff dependents has left Gaza, Borrell says

First group of EU staff dependents has left Gaza, Borrell says

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A first group of 19 “dependents of EU staff” have left Gaza, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell announced on Saturday.

Borrell, who this week has been on his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, made the announcement in a tweet in which he thanked Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, along with the spokesperson of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, for the result. Borrell met with Herzog and Cohen on his trip.

The Gaza Strip has been at the center of an Israeli military attack that according to the Palestinian Authority has killed more than 11,500 Palestinians, more than 4,700 of them children. The Israeli strikes came after an attack by the militant group Hamas that killed 1,200 Israelis and saw roughly 240 people taken as hostages.

An EU official said that following Borrell’s diplomatic efforts in recent days, “we’re happy to announce that a first group of family members of our EU staff has been able to leave Gaza.” For security reasons, the official declined to confirm how many EU family members are left in Gaza.

During another leg of his trip, in Bahrain, Borrell announced that Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan will take part in an upcoming Union for the Mediterranean meeting in Barcelona, where the conflict between Israel and Hamas will be discussed. The Saudi minister will also take part in the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in December, Borrell said.

At the last meeting of EU foreign ministers, on Monday, Borrell laid out some ideas for after the Israel-Hamas war. And, speaking at a panel in Bahrain about who should control Gaza once the conflict is over, he said: “One could do that. The Palestinian Authority. I was in Ramallah, they told me they are ready and willing to take this responsibility.” He added that the idea “will need international support.”

The full endorsement of a future central role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, that Borrell made also on Friday during a visit to Ramallah, is different from what he said on Monday after the meeting of EU foreign ministers, where he said that “we believe that a Palestinian authority must return to Gaza,” stressing he meant “one Palestinian authority, not the Palestinian Authority.”

In his speech, Borrell also stressed that “I know it is not easy to represent here the European Union” and added that the EU has to do more than increasing humanitarian aid because “it does not make any sense to give me a dinner tonight, if you are going to kill me tomorrow.”  

At the same panel in Bahrain, the IISS Manama Dialogue, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi ruled out that Arab troops could play a role in the Gaza Strip after the conflict. “There’ll be no Arab troops going to Gaza. None. We are not going to be seen as the enemy, ” he said.

A German non-official document, drafted before the second phase of Israel’s operations in Gaza and seen by POLITICO, mentioned the idea of the “internationalization of Gaza under the umbrella of the United Nations (and regional partners).”

In his intervention, Safadi was also very skeptical on Israel’s goal to eliminate Hamas. “Israel says it wants to wipe out Hamas. There’s a lot of military people here, I just don’t understand how this objective can be realized,” he said. Hamas is “an idea,” he stressed and “you cannot bomb an idea out of existence;” that is something only politics and the two-state solution can do, he argued.

And the EU diplomatic efforts in the region also find European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Egypt Satuday and in Jordan Sunday. In Cairo, von der Leyen met the President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. In Amman, she will meet with King Abdullah, whom she recently met in Brussels.

Speaking in Egypt, von der Leyen said that “we must also think about what the day after could look like” and stressed the need for “a political solution” that is a two-state solution that “requires the agreement between Israelis and Palestinians” and that the European Union “is ready to support.”

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