EU foreign ministers "strongly condemn" Hamas, are "appalled" at Israeli offensive
European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton following the meeting on Tuesday at which EU foreign ministers finalized their statement on Hamas and Israel (Thierry Charlier/ AFP).
The EU’s foreign ministers, following a monthly meeting in Brussels, issued a statement on the Middle East condemning “the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, directly harming civilians. These are criminal and unjustifiable acts.”
The statement also stated however that the EU was "appalled" at the killing of civilians inside the Gaza strip as a result of Israel's offensive saying that the EU “condemns the loss of hundreds of civilian lives, among them many women and children.” "While recognizing Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks, the EU underlines that the Israeli military operation must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law,” it read.
The statement said the EU was “particularly appalled by the human cost” of the operation in Shejaia and was “deeply concerned at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.”
The foreign ministers called on all sides to implement a cease-fire immediately.
One senior diplomatic official said that Israel was pleased with the statement, even though after dealing with the Gaza situation, it went on to repeat the EU’s well-known position regarding a two-state solution, settlements and negotiations.
The elements about Hamas, the official said, were nothing short of “dramatic.” He said that it was no small thing for the EU to call Hamas’s actions “criminal” and say Hamas needed to disarm. Even in the paragraph condemning the loss of civilian lives, the official pointed out that the EU called on Israel to act proportionally, but did not say it was not doing so – an important matter of diplomatic nuance.
Some countries wanted to see Israel condemned for acting “disproportionately,” the official said, without naming names. He did say, however, that Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic and Holland were instrumental in getting the favorable language of the statement approved.
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