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On tour of south, EU foreign minister tells Israel not to act out of ‘rage’ in war against Hamas

BE’ERI — European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday that Israel should not act out of “rage” in waging its war against Hamas, in comments made during visits to communities devastated by the terrorist group’s October 7 rampage in southern Israel, the trigger for the ongoing military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

“I understand your fears and your pain…I understand your rage. Let me ask you not to let yourself be carried away by rage,” Borrell said, sitting in the Eshkol regional council building alongside Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. “Because what makes the difference between a civilized society and a terrorist group is respect for human life.”

Cohen said Israel would continue its war until it destroyed Hamas and returned the approximately 240 hostages held in the Gaza Strip. Israel set the targets after 3,000 Hamas and other terrorists killed 1,200 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians amid brutal atrocities, on October 7.

Borrell, like the EU 27, said Israel had the right to defend itself, but expressed concern over the growing humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, as well as the reported number of casualties. by the Hamas-led Ministry of Health, which now exceeds 11,500 people.

Gaza’s health ministry does not separate figures between combatants and non-combatants, and Israel and the United States have expressed skepticism about their statistics, although U.N. agencies support them.

Calling for better conditions for civilians in Gaza, Borrell said “one horror does not justify another.” The EU has insisted that more humanitarian aid be given to Gaza and has halted fighting to allow its distribution, among other civilian needs.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell visit the ruins of Kibbutz Be’eri on 16 November 2023. (Ronen Horesh / Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Earlier this week, the EU denounced “Hamas’ use of hospitals and civilians as human shields.” Israel is currently operating for the second day in a row at Gaza’s largest hospital, after long claiming that Hamas headquarters was beneath the wider Shifa medical campus. The White House backed the Israeli claims, citing U.S. intelligence.

The call for Hamas was notable amid increasingly aggressive criticism of Israel from some EU member states. Senior Belgian officials insisted that sanctions be imposed on Israel over its war against Hamas, and the Belgian parliament refused to screen a compilation of raw footage of Hamas atrocities.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said earlier this month that the Israeli war was “something close to revenge”, at the time one of the harshest criticisms of Israel from ‘a head of EU member state.

Borrell’s comments, made after visiting the ruins of Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the hardest-hit communities with about 20 percent of its members killed or kidnapped by Hamas, match the sentiment behind Varadkar’s remarks and reflect a broader EU view that Israeli military activity must be tempered to protect civilians, even recognizing that Hamas deliberately embeds itself among them.

“Hamas must be defeated but… Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people,” Borrell said.

Hamas officially came to power by winning the 2006 local elections in the Gaza Strip, then overthrew the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in the territory in a bloody coup in 2007.

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Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (right) and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell visit the ruins of Kibbutz Be’eri on 16 November 2023. (Ronen Horesh / Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Borrell, whose title is High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, has invested time over the past year to advance negotiations with the parties regional stakeholders to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli conflict. Palestinian conflict.

“The best tribute we can pay to the victims is to think about how to prevent these horrors from happening again,” Borrell said, adding: “Our duty is to seek peace.”

Cohen, who led Borrell and the Irish foreign minister around Beeri on Thursday, said: “We should all be united to liberate Gaza from Hamas.”

Despite the EU’s condemnation of the Hamas attack and its support for Israel’s right to self-defense, carried out in accordance with international law, the bloc has not proposed an alternative plan to the ongoing war that would neutralize both Hamas’ threat to Israel’s security and would sufficiently protect the Palestinians. civilians.

In particular, Israel has said that any pause or prolonged ceasefire would amount to helping Hamas, as it would allow the organization to regroup and launch new attacks against Israelis, as it has stated several times. times since October 7 is his goal.

Borrell arrived in Israel on Wednesday and was scheduled to meet other Israeli ministers and the president on Thursday, as well as representatives of the families of hostages held by Hamas, before heading to the West Bank for meetings with the Palestinian Authority.

On Friday, Borrell is expected to travel to Bahrain.

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