BRUSSELS — EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell demanded yesterday a “pause of hostilities” to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip after the intense overnight bombing of the coastal territory.
But later Saturday, his comments were challenged by Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg on social media for having exceeded the position agreed by EU leaders earlier in the week.
Israel unleashed its bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the Gaza border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing more than 220 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
In retaliatory Israeli strikes, more than 8,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip, half of them children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Late on Friday Israel stepped up its air campaign on Gaza, turning hundreds of buildings and thousands of houses into rubble.
“Gaza is in complete blackout and isolation while heavy shelling continues,” Borrell said on social media.
“UNRWA warns about the desperate situation of Gaza people without electricity, food, water,” he added, referring to the UN relief agency for Palestinian Refugees.
“Far too many civilians, including children, have been killed. This is against International Humanitarian Law,” he said.
“A pause of hostilities is urgently needed to enable humanitarian access,” he added.
Borrell also condemned all attacks on civilians, “including continuing indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel” and called for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages”.
No EU ceasefire call
In a joint statement earlier this week, EU leaders avoided any mention of a ceasefire despite some member states’ push for tougher language.
Austria’s Schallenberg tagged Borrell in a social media post reminding him of the official EU position on Saturday evening.
“It is imperative to stick to the positions clearly expressed by Heads of States and Governments”, the minister said, referring to the meeting of European Union leaders earlier this week.
Schallenberg listed the EU’s positions, which included condemnation of Hamas’s “terrorist attacks”, Israel’s “right to defend itself in line with international law” and the call for all hostages to be released.
EU leaders wrangled for five hours on Thursday to agree a position, calling for “humanitarian corridors and pauses”, stopping short of a call for a ceasefire.
Saturday’s exchange was a further indication of the enduring divisions inside the European Union over the war.
A vote at the UN General Assembly on Friday also laid bare the splits in the EU.
Eight EU countries including Belgium, France and Spain voted in favour of a non-binding resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian truce”.
Austria and Hungary were among four EU member states to vote against the resolution, while 15 nations including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands abstained.
Israel and the United States criticised the resolution for failing to mention Hamas. — AFP