Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Israel wants EU help to scare off Hamas

Israel wants the EU to tell Hamas that the international community would endorse Israeli military action against Gaza if it continues to fire rockets and mortars.

"The EU is very busy with the situation in Libya ... but it should become more aware of the escalating violence by Hamas and others. The EU must do what it can to make Hamas understand this is intolerable and that it will have consequences for Hamas which the EU will endorse," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told EUobserver by phone from Jerusalem on Thursday (24 March).

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  • Israeli artillery. Shahid said Israeli fire has killed 15 people in the past five days. A bomb killed one person in Jerusalem, but it has not been tied to Hamas (Photo: Cau Napoli)

"We don't want to resort to a military deterrent but of course we will do anything we have to to protect our citizens," he added.

Asked if he expects the EU to tell Hamas it would endorse a new military campaign against Gaza, Palmor said: "What I'm saying is they must make Hamas understand that all options are on the table."

The EU classifies Hamas as a terrorist entity and does not have official relations with it. But individual member states talk to it informally and the European Commission has financial leverage by, for example, paying for 30 percent of the fuel for Gaza's power plant.

Palmor's remarks come after five days of the worst violence since Israel's operation Cast Lead in 2009 killed between 1,200 and 1,400 people in Gaza, many of them militants, but also hundreds of civilians and children.

The operation halted rocket strikes, but it saw Israel isolated on the world stage. The EU froze plans to upgrade diplomatic relations and 25 countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed a report accusing it of war crimes.

Israel's deputy prime minister, Silvan Shalom, told national radio on Wednesday: "We may have to consider a return to that operation." The culture minister, Limor Livnat, spoke of "Operation Cast Lead 2."

Palmor said that Hamas picked a fight in order to raise its profile after its political rival, the Fatah government in the West Bank, recently gained prestige by securing recognition of Palestinian statehood by Uruguay.

The Palestinian Authority's envoy to Brussels rejected the Israeli narrative.

Leila Shahid said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keen for a fight in order to block Hamas-Fatah reconciliation because he does not want the Middle East peace process to move forward.

"The Israeli government has used all this to sabotage the proposed visit of [Fatah] President Mahmoud Abbas [to Gaza]," she said.

"The occupation of Gaza has been going on for 44 years. If Mr Palmor thinks he needs European pressure to stop the shooting, we want European pressure to end the occupation ... the problem isn't shelling on this or that day, it's 44 years of occupation," she added.

Reacting to the Shalom and Livnat 'Cast Lead 2' statements, she noted: "This is very wrong, because Israel actually has the means to do it. I would be surprised if the world would allow Israel to get away with another Cast Lead."

Pointing out that the UN did nothing to stop Israeli jets from bombing Gaza back in 2009, Shahid said: "It shows how the world community, whether its the UN Security Council or the EU or the Americans, is silent and impotent in front of Israeli violations, when they have been quite effective on Libyan violations."

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