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Israel’s EU ambassador: To be relevant, EU should follow von der Leyen’s leadership

Israel’s EU ambassador: To be relevant, EU should follow von der Leyen’s leadership

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For the EU to play a bigger role in the war between Israel and Hamas, it should follow the example of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Israeli ambassador to the EU said on Thursday.

“I was surprised because she showed courage, she showed leadership, she raised the issue of humanitarian assistance … but she did it in the right manner,” Haim Regev said.  

During her visit to Israel, lawmakers and diplomats sharply criticized von der Leyen for not explicitly calling on Israel to respect international law.

Regev praised von der Leyen for keeping any critical messages she had for Israel behind closed doors, adding: “This is really exactly what the EU should do.”

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell has been vocal in criticizing Israel. Recently, he said Israel’s actions in Gaza may have already breached international law. The European Parliament called for a “humanitarian pause” on Thursday to provide food, water and medical aid to Palestinians in the besieged enclave of Gaza after Israel cut off water and electricity to Gaza at the start of the war. The Parliament also demanded Israel comply with international humanitarian law. Regev said to reporters Thursday: “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, there is water” and humanitarian supplies will come through Egypt.

Israel is not asking the EU for financial, medical, or military support, he said. What Israel is asking from the EU is only to continue its support, he added.

And if the EU should play any bigger role and not leave the mediation solely to the Americans, Regev said, “We need first of all to be clear what is the EU position.” He added, “We do not have to agree on everything but there’s an ongoing exchange dialogue with everybody here.”

Regev said Israel’s current war had one main purpose.

“We need once and for all to complete this war to eliminate Hamas,” he said, adding: “It’s not a war against the Palestinians, it’s against Hamas.” Since the start of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, Israel has killed 3,785 Palestinians, including more than 1,500 children, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, Reuters reported. On October 7, Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 Israelis and took some 200 hostages into Gaza, according to the Israeli government.

A massive blast rocked a Gaza City hospital packed with Palestinians Tuesday, triggering accusations between the two sides over who was responsible for killing hundreds of Palestinians, fueling condemnation and protests in the Arab world.

The U.N. has called for an investigation into the hospital explosion but Regev said now was not the moment for an international probe. “We are at war and right now it’s not the time to start an international initiative,” he said. “We have the proof that it’s them … we cannot share every single piece of information that we have, but we tried to show it.”

The ambassador played for journalists what Israel said was an intercepted audio recording of two Hamas militants talking about one of their rockets misfiring. Hamas maintains it was an Israeli strike that caused the explosion and killings.

During a news conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister on Thursday, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

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