Top EU diplomat says Israel’s “complete siege” of Gaza violates international law

Israel is violating international law by imposing a “complete siege” on Gaza, the European Union’s chief diplomat said Tuesday.

E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell made his comments after a special meeting of E.U. foreign ministers to discuss Hamas’ Saturday attack on Israel and Israel’s military response, as Reuters reported.

“Israel has the right to defend” itself, Borrell said, according to a video shared by The Guardian, “but it has to be done accordingly with international law, humanitarian law.”

Borrell added that some of the steps Israel had taken so far—such as blocking food, water, and fuel from entering Gaza—ran counter to international law, as Politico reported.

“Not all the Palestinian people are terrorists,” Borrell continued in the video. “So a collective punishment against all Palestinians will be unfair and unproductive. It will be against our interests, and against the interest of the peace.”

Borrell also weighed in on a recent controversy surrounding E.U. aid to Palestine after European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said on Monday that the European Commission would suspend its €691 million ($730 million) funding program to Palestine in the wake of the attacks. This led to protests from several member countries and a clarifying statement from Borrell that, while aid would be reviewed, a cessation of payments “would have damaged the E.U. interests in the region and would have only further emboldened terrorists.”

On Tuesday, Borrell pointed to a growing number of casualties in Gaza and the internal displacement of 150,000 people. (As of Wednesday, Palestinian authorities put the toll at more than 1,000 killed and more than 5,000 injured, according to USA Today, and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said that almost 175,500 had been forced to flee their homes.)

“The humanitarian situation is dire, so we will have to support more, not less,” Borrell said.

He added that the E.U. did not have a relationship with Hamas, but that the Palestinian Authority was “our partner.”

During his remarks, Borrell decried Hamas’ “barbaric and terrorist attack that has caused so many casualties” (more than 1,200 as of Wednesday, according to USA Today), but added that Israel’s counterattack on Gaza “will also cause human suffering.”


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