• The fighting is the most serious escalation since the 'Eight-Day War' in 2012 (Photo: Israeli Air Force)

EU 'deplores' Israeli killing of civilians

09.07.14 @ 09:29

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - EU countries have urged Palestinian militants to stop firing at Israel, while “deploring” Israel’s killing of civilians.

They said in a statement on Tuesday (8 July) the EU “strongly condemns the indiscriminate fire into Israel” from the Gaza strip, while adding it “deplores the growing number of civilian casualties, reportedly among them children, caused by Israeli retaliatory fire”.

The words did nothing to calm the situation.

The Israeli army said on Wednesday morning the intensity of the fighting is increasing. It reported that a barrage of 45 projectiles was fired in less than 60 minutes at one point during the night, while the Israeli air force struck 160 targets in Gaza.

The firing out of Gaza has not killed any one so far. But Palestinian authorities say Israel killed 31 people in Gaza in the past 24 hours. They say “the vast majority” are civilians and that two of them are children under five years old.

Israel on Tuesday also said it is preparing a ground attack on Gaza if need be, recalling events in 2009, when a ground incursion led to the death of some 1,500 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

“If we need to go inside in a ground operation, then we will do it”, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel’s security minister, said on TV.

For its part, the US on Tuesday urged both sides to “de-escalate”.

A US State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, added that Palestinian “terrorists” are “deliberately targeting” Israeli civilians.

“No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself".

Israel and Palestinian authorities were in peace talks less than three months ago.

But the talks unravelled amid Palestinian complaints Israel is building more settlements than ever.

The situation deteriorated after the murder of three Jewish teenagers in June. Israel blamed Hamas, a Palestinian faction which holds sway in Gaza, and launched a crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank which saw more than 400 people arrested and five Palestinians shot dead.

A Palestinian boy was also murdered in Jerusalem in what Israeli police are treating as a Jewish revenge killing.

For his part, Xavier Abu Eid, an advisor to the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank, told EUobserver from Ramallah on Wednesday that his government “does not justify any violent attack” on Israel.

But he said Israel “escalated the situation” by its crackdown on Hamas despite the fact it did not put forward “any evidence” Hamas had killed the three Jewish boys.

He noted that Israel, as the “occupying power” in Gaza, has a legal responsibility to protect civilians and urged EU states to “stop treating Israel as a country above the law”.

The Israeli foreign ministry could not be reached for comment on Wednesday morning.