EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell backs pause in Israel-Hamas war

Josep Borrell says getting more aid to Gaza is ‘most important thing’ as bloc debates humanitarian pause.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has backed calls for a humanitarian pause in the Israel-Hamas conflict [File: Jean-Francois Badias/AP Photo]

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has backed calls for a pause in the Israel-Hamas war, describing the limited supply of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip as “not enough”.

Borrell said on Monday that the “most important thing” was to get more humanitarian aid to the besieged enclave, home to more than two million people.

“Personally, I think a humanitarian pause is needed in order to allow the humanitarian support to come in and be distributed, seeing that half of the population of Gaza has been moving from their houses,” he told reporters before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

Borrell said Hamas also must stop its rocket attacks on Israel and release the more than 200 people Israeli officials say have been taken captive as “part of any step towards de-escalation”.

His comments came as the bloc debates calls for a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas amid warnings of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Israel has been bombarding the enclave after imposing a “total” blockade, pledging to eliminate Hamas for the armed group’s October 7 attacks inside the country, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.

Israeli air raids have killed more than 4,500 Palestinians, mainly children and women, in the enclave, according to Palestinian authorities.

United Nations officials have warned that the 2.3 million residents of Gaza are on the brink of starvation and at risk of cholera and other serious diseases due to the collapse of water and sanitation services.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the release of captives held by Hamas.

The United States on Wednesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have called for a pause in fighting to allow humanitarian assistance into the enclave while also condemning Hamas’s attacks inside Israel.

While trucks carrying aid began entering Gaza on Saturday after a US-mediated deal between Israel and Egypt, UN officials have warned that the volume is only a small fraction of the aid usually delivered to the Strip.

On Sunday, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said a plane had taken off for Egypt, carrying a medical team and supplies for Gaza.

The EU has struggled to present a unified stance on the conflict, with confusing and sometimes contradictory messaging by officials raising tensions within the bloc.

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, faced criticism for speaking on behalf of the bloc as a whole earlier this month after travelling to Israel to offer Europe’s backing in its war on Hamas.

Borrell has condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza, describing it as a violation of international law.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden hosted European leaders, including von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, at the White House for a summit intended to deliver a message of unity on conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

In a statement released after the summit, the two sides condemned Hamas for its “brutal terrorist attacks across Israel” while expressing concern about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies