26th Jun 2019

Gaza war goes on despite EU diplomacy

  • The impact of an earlier bombardment of Gaza (Photo: Ulla Sandbæk)

Israel on Wednesday morning (31 January) rejected an EU ceasefire proposal as fighting continued in Gaza, with international pressure building around the New Year war.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert knocked back an EU plan for a 48-hour ceasefire designed to let humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave, despite earlier support for the move from defence minister Ehud Barak.

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"That proposal contained no guarantees of any kind that Hamas will stop the rockets and smuggling," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Israel's Haaretz daily. "It is not realistic to expect Israel to cease fire unilaterally with no mechanism to enforce the cessation of shooting and terror from Hamas."

The French EU presidency had been pushing the 48-hour plan in telephone diplomacy since Monday.

EU foreign ministers in an emergency meeting on Tuesday also called for an "immediate and permanent ceasefire," offering to step up EU border monitoring efforts in Gaza and to send a ministerial delegation to the region "shortly."

"There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Gaza or elsewhere," the EU joint statement said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans to meet with Israel foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Paris on Thursday and to travel to Israel on Monday. But there has been no top-level EU intervention in the five-day conflict so far amid differences of opinion inside the union.

France, the UK, Ireland and Luxembourg have led criticism of "disproportionate" use of force by Israel. But Germany and the Czech Republic - which formally takes over the EU presidency on Thursday - have blamed Hamas.

"Regarding what we want [a ceasefire], there are no differences," French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner told French TV on Tuesday evening.

Foreign ministers from the Middle East "quartet" - the EU, UN, US and Russia - on Tuesday also issued a statement urging an immediate ceasefire and an influx of aid to Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli air force bombed smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border and Hamas government offices in the early hours of Wednesday. A Hamas rocket hit an empty school in Be'er Sheva inside Israel.

Over 380 Palestinians, including 45 women and children, have died so far. Four Israelis have also been killed.

Diplomatic pressure on Israel is likely to grow on Wednesday evening when Arab League foreign ministers meet in Cairo to discuss the crisis.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will also start a regional tour of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Wednesday in a mission that leaves out Tel Aviv.

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