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Israel is acting against international law, says Borrell

Israel is acting against international law, says Borrell

by host

BRUSSELS — The EU’s top diplomat said Israel’s actions in Gaza already may have breached international law, as he underlined the need for the EU to continue funding the Palestinian Authority in the wake of a Hamas attack on Israel Saturday. 

“The right for self defense has to be done within international law,” the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, said Tuesday following a specially convened virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers. 

“Some of the actions [by Israel] — and the United Nations has already said it — cutting water, cutting electricity, cutting food to a mass of civilian people is against international law so yes, there are some actions that are not in accordance with international law,” he said. 

His comments put the EU at odds with messaging coming from Washington where the Biden Administration has, so far, refrained from criticizing Israel’s actions in Gaza. Israel has put Gaza under “complete siege” in retaliation for Hamas’ assault on Israel that left more than 900 people dead. Borrell’s remarks are the strongest condemnation yet by a senior EU figure of Israel’s strikes in Gaza, which have killed more than 800 people.

Borrell condemned the “barbaric and terrorist attack” by Hamas and said: “The Palestinian people are also suffering.” 

Borrell also sought to draw a line under the controversy that has engulfed the European Commission over the previous 24 hours when it was forced to row back an announcement from Hungarian Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi saying all Palestinian aid from the EU would be cut. Instead, a review has been launched. 

Borrell, who heads the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic wing, said the review should not delay funding to the Palestinian Authority, which is recognized by the international community.  “It would be a big mistake, in this critical moment, to stop our support for the Palestinian Authority,” he said, arguing that it would be a “present” for Hamas. 

“At this moment the casualties in Gaza are increasing. The humanitarian situation is dire. We will have to support more, not less,” he said. 

While Borrell’s comments broadly align with previous EU statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at times of heightened conflict by calling for respect for international law and restraint from all sides, the scale and ferocity of the latest Hamas attack on Israel has prompted some voices within the EU to call for Brussels to show more solidarity with Israel. 

Despite being invited, Israeli and Palestinian representatives did not participate in the meeting. 

Meanwhile, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has invited all members of Parliament and staff to observe a solemn moment at the European Parliament on Wednesday to remember the victims of the Hamas. However, some MEPs are expected to skip the event amid concerns the victims of Israel’s strikes on Gaza are not part of the proposed event.

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