EU ministers discuss Gaza humanitarian 'pause', divisions persist

EU ministers discuss Gaza humanitarian 'pause', divisions persist

Shafaq News / European Union foreign ministers mulled calling for a "humanitarian pause" in Gaza during a meeting on Monday, but fell short of considering a full ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting in Luxembourg, said he "anticipated" that the bloc's 27 heads of state could call for a "pause" in the conflict to ensure humanitarian aid reaches civilians in the Gaza strip when they meet for a summit later this week.

UN chief António Guterres first called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" to ease "epic human suffering" in Gaza last Wednesday. But Borrell says the EU's possible call for a pause falls short of the UN’s ambitions for a full humanitarian ceasefire.

"A ceasefire is certainly much more than a pause," Borrell said. "A pause, as the name suggests, is an interruption of something that would then continue. It is much less ambitious than a ceasefire, which means an agreement between both sides."

"A pause can be agreed much quicker, and I believe the ministers consider that a pause is needed so that humanitarian aid can enter," Borrell added.

EU leaders have not unanimously called for a cessation of hostilities - as states such as Russia and China have - instead proclaiming Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself in response to Hamas’ attack in which Israeli civilians were killed and captured.

Divisions between ministers had emerged earlier on Monday on what a potential humanitarian pause could look like. Austria’s Alexander Schallenberg and the Czech Republic’s Jan Lipavsky showed some scepticism, warning humanitarian supplies could fall into the hands of Hamas.

"We must put ourselves in the shoes of our Israeli friends and consider how we would react in Austria if we were targeted by a terrorist attack," Schallenberg said, saying Israel was trying to avoid civilian deaths and warning before striking.

But the ministers of Luxembourg, Ireland and Slovenia explicitly called for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire to allow aid to enter Gaza.

On Monday, a third humanitarian convoy entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border, after 34 trucks were allowed to enter over the weekend.

The European Commission is tripling its humanitarian aid to Palestinians and has opened an “air bridge” to deliver supplies such as shelter items, medicines and hygiene kits to the Egypt-Gaza border.


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