Politics, Middle East, Europe, Russia-Ukraine War

EU foreign policy chief compares Gaza to Ukraine: ‘You can't cut off a population’s water, utilities’

Top EU diplomat says some of Israel’s response to last week's Hamas attack violates international law

Alyssa Mcmurtry  | 14.10.2023 - Update : 14.10.2023
EU foreign policy chief compares Gaza to Ukraine: ‘You can't cut off a population’s water, utilities’


In an interview published Saturday, the EU’s top diplomat compared Gaza to Ukraine and said some of Israel’s military response violates international law,.

“We’ve said it in Ukraine, and we say it in Gaza: you cannot cut off water and all utilities to an entire population,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Spanish daily El Pais. “We must keep repeating, pressuring and insisting (that Israel comply with international law).”

Borrell’s comments come the day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen flew to Israel where she met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and uncritically pledged Europe's support for Israel.

But while condemning Hamas and militia for making “it impossible to find peaceful solutions,” Borrell, a Spanish politician, also sought nuance.

“What happened hasn’t happened in a long time and emotions are running high … Now we must deal with the most urgent thing, which is the situation in Gaza and preventing the conflict from spreading,” he added.

On the Israeli army’s evacuation order, Borrell also said it was “completely unrealistic” to demand that 1 million people evacuate northern Gaza in 24 hours.

“Our delegation there has been getting information from people in shelters and hospitals where people are injured who say: ‘How are we going to leave, how can we move if there isn’t even transportation?’”

While the conflict reveals old divisions in Europe, Borrell said that the “vast majority” of EU officials at a meeting earlier this week were opposed to suspending aid to Palestine.

He also said that after speaking to “all the actors” at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the infrastructure has been very damaged by bombings. If Israel stops bombing, however, Borrell said he envisions being able to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza and carrying out select evacuations.

The top EU diplomat said this entire crisis “demonstrates that the international community forgot about the Palestinian problem.”

“Israel was … making peace with other Arab countries but put Palestine to the side. Peace also must be forged between the Palestinians and Israelis. If anything, may this serve as an urgent call to the international community to try to respond to this.”

Borrell, who just wrapped up a trip to China, said he spoke to the Chinese foreign minister about the Israeli-Palestinian situation as well.

“The Chinese minister, like others from Arab countries, emphasized that we forgot about the Palestinians. That’s fine. But that doesn’t justify what Hamas does and it certainly doesn’t help the Palestinian cause.”

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