EU urged to help stop Gaza massacre as MEPs call for 'humanitarian pause'

A Palestinian man carries an elderly woman past the site of a deadly explosion at al-Ahli hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023.
A Palestinian man carries an elderly woman past the site of a deadly explosion at al-Ahli hospital, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. Copyright Abed Khaled/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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Pressure increased on Thursday on the European Union to help find practical solutions to spare lives in Gaza, as the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for a "humanitarian pause".


The resolution, which carries no legal weight, comes after the United States vetoed a similar text by the UN Security Council calling for humanitarian pauses to deliver lifesaving aid to millions in Gaza.

But Arab countries' ambassadors to the EU on Thursday denounced the bloc's lack of decisive action and its failure to call for a ceasefire. 

"I’m asking for more. I’m asking the European Union to immediately use all of its means to put pressure on Israel so that Israel accepts that it must stop the massacres, the attacks against civilians, children and women in Gaza," Abdelrahim Alfarra, Ambassador of the Palestinian Authority to the EU, told reporters in Brussels.

"The European Union and its member states have not only a moral responsibility, but also a responsibility to be coherent with the founding principles of the Union. And it is in line with these same principles that we tell them that double standards are not acceptable at all," he added.

"We call on the Europeans to ensure an immediate stop to the aggression against the Gaza strip."

NGOs have also criticised the European Parliament for its "timid gesture" of calling for a humanitarian pause rather than a full ceasefire.

"While any window to bring in aid to Gaza safely should be seized at this catastrophic stage, this is not the real answer," Vittorio Infante, Oxfam EU conflict expert, said. "We need a full ceasefire by all parties, and an end to the siege of Gaza. This is the only way to get enough humanitarian aid and life-saving assistance to civilians there." 

The EU has received scathing criticism for its uncoordinated response to the conflict, including contradictory statements on the potential suspension of critical aid to the Palestinian territories. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has also been under scrutiny for her steadfast support to Israel and her hesitation in calling for international humanitarian law to be respected.

The international community has been urging Egypt, which borders the south of the Gaza strip, to open humanitarian corridors so that aid can reach those who are fleeing the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled south after Israel ordered the north of the enclave to be evacuated ahead of a possible ground invasion.

The Egyptian ambassador to the EU said on Thursday that the notion Egypt is refusing to open its passage to Gaza is simply untrue.

"We never closed it, and that should be understood," Ambassador Badr Abdelatty said. "I assure you that the crossing has never been closed from the Egyptian side. The problem is that the other part of the crossing has been bombarded four times."

The European Commission announced earlier this week it would field flights of humanitarian supplies for Gaza to the Egyptian border, with two flights due to leave this week. Speaking following an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders on Tuesday, von der Leyen said the Commission is "in contact with the Egyptian authorities to enable our (EU) aid to enter Gaza".

Arab ambassadors also claimed on Thursday that Israel was responsible for the tragic strike on the Al-Ahli Arab hospital where hundreds were killed. Israel claims the attack was caused by an errant rocket fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant group. 

Members of the European Parliament have joined calls for an independent investigation into the cause of the blast.

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