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EU urges Israel to end Rafah military operation 'immediately'

By AFP

May 15, 2024 12:39 PM


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The European Union on Wednesday urged Israel to end its military operation in Gaza's Rafah "immediately", warning that failure to do so would undermine ties with the bloc.

"Should Israel continue its military operation in Rafah, it would inevitably put a heavy strain on the EU's relationship with Israel," said the statement issued in the EU's name by its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

"The European Union urges Israel to end its military operation in Rafah immediately," the statement said, warning it was "further disrupting the distribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza and is leading to more internal displacement, exposure to famine and human suffering."

The bloc -- the main aid donor for the Palestinian territories and Israel's biggest trading partner -- said more than a million people in and around Rafah had been ordered by Israel to flee the area to other zones the UN says cannot be considered safe.

"While the EU recognises Israel's right to defend itself, Israel must do so in line with International Humanitarian Law and provide safety to civilians," it said.

The law requires Israel to allow in humanitarian aid, the statement stressed.

The EU also condemned a Hamas attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing which blocked humanitarian relief supplies.

"We call on all parties to redouble their efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire and the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas," it said.

Israel's military operations in Gaza were launched in retaliation for Hamas's October 7 attack on Israeli which killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, and saw around 250 hostages taken, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's military has conducted a relentless bombardment from the air and a ground offensive inside Gaza that has killed more than 35,000, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Israel's main allies, the United States and the EU, as well as the United Nations, have all warned Israel against a major operation in Rafah given that it would add to the civilian toll.

Gaza aid pier to be operational in coming days: Pentagon

A pier built by the US military for Gaza aid deliveries will be operational "in the coming days," the Pentagon said Tuesday, after a week of bad weather delayed its installation.

With a cost of at least $320 million, the pier is aimed at boosting humanitarian access to Gaza, which has been ravaged by seven months of war between Israel and Hamas.

But poor sea conditions have made it unsafe to anchor the pier on the Gaza coast, and it was instead stowed at the port of Ashdod in Israel as construction was completed last week.

Asked when the pier would be installed, Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told reporters "in the coming days, I think you can expect to see it operational," but declined to give a specific date.

Ryder added that there were US Navy destroyers in the region that could provide security assistance for the aid operation.

The Pentagon has previously said that Israeli soldiers will anchor the pier to the Gaza shore, keeping US troops off the ground.

Plans for the pier were first announced by President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of aid by ground, worsening the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Under the plans, supplies will be transported out of Cyprus on commercial vessels to a floating platform also built by the US military off the Gaza coast.

Aid will then be transferred to smaller vessels and brought to the pier on the Gaza coast and taken to land by truck for distribution.

Ryder said the United States and humanitarian groups were "pre-positioning aid in Cyprus to be loaded onto vessels for transport to the floating pier."

He said the United States wanted to see aid delivered into Gaza at an "increased rate," adding it was working to open the Rafah border crossing between Israel and Egypt, which has been blocked since last week.

Gaza has been devastated by the war which began on October 7 when Hamas carried out an attack in southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and has conducted a retaliatory offensive that has killed at least 35,173 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.


AFP


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