Saturday

13th Apr 2024

EU compares Hamas to Islamic State, evasive on Gaza Strip

  • The UN agency in Gaza says 12 of its staff have been killed since Saturday 7 October
Listen to article

The EU has refrained from calling out possible Israeli war crimes for laying siege to the Gaza Strip, while ratcheting up its condemnation of Hamas.

On Tuesday (12 October), the European Commission said some of the atrocities carried out by Hamas were worse that those perpetrated by the Islamic state (Daesh), a terrorist militant group that had filmed decapitations and claimed responsibility for numerous deadly attacks in Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Some of the pictures coming out remind us of what Daesh did or even worse," said Peter Stano, the spokesperson for the EU's foreign policy branch, citing the 260 young people killed at the Nova Music festival on the Israel side near the Gaza Strip, as an example.

The Israel Defense Forces made similar Hamas comparisons with the Islamic State only a few hours later on X, formally Twitter. And Nato defence ministers in Brussels were also reportedly shown, by Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, "graphic and shocking footage" videos of killings by Hamas.

The Israeli ambassador to the EU and Nato made a similar comparison in an op-ed in EUobserver on Thursday.

Amnesty International said they had also verified videos which show armed men shooting at civilians and dragging people away as hostages.

"One disturbing video shows armed men parading a woman through central Gaza, like a scene from a nightmare," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary general.

Callamard also condemned the hostage-taking of some 150 civilians by Hamas. And she said Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip amounted to collective punishment, which is a war crime.

Collective punishment

When pressed, Stano would not directly condemn Israel's decision to cut off water, food and electricity to the some 2.3 million residents in Gaza.

"What we are witnessing in Gaza is a direct consequence of what Hamas started on Saturday," he said.

Instead, he said the EU sought an "end of aggression" and a reduction of violence, while refraining to use the word "ceasefire".

"Israel has the right to defend itself in line with international law," he said, in a nod to the indiscriminate bombing of the Gaza Strip.

His boss, the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, had earlier described the Israeli siege of Gaza as illegal.

While Borrell condemned Hamas, he also rejected "collective punishments" against the Palestinian people and called the EU to step up aid.

The position appears to stand in contrast to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who made no reference to Palestinians or the respect for international law in her public statements on X.

Her chief spokesperson, Eric Mamer, says such statements on conflict don't have to make explicit references to international law because they are "implied".

The European Commission, has in the past, described similar scenes of bombing devastation as possible war crimes.

In 2016, the EU said Russian and Syrian aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo, a city in Syria, "may amount to war crimes."

And last year, von der Leyen said Russian attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, "especially electricity, are war crimes. "

According to the European Commission, there is no discrepancy between that and the current Israeli aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip. It says the attack by Russia against Ukraine had been unprovoked, unlike the Hamas with Israel.

"Israel is in a situation where it is defending in an extremely complex theatre of operations," said Mamer.

At least 1,200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the weekend, and more than 5,600 injured. A similar number of people in Israel, mostly civilians, have also been killed and some 2,400 injured.

Israel's siege of Gaza is illegal, EU says

"Cutting water, cutting electricity, cutting food to a mass of civilian people is against international law," said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Muscat.

Opinion

Israel: Is revenge the right answer?

Israel, understandably, cries out for revenge. But Hamas is a terrorist organisation that makes no distinction between military and civilian casualties. Can a country that calls itself the only democracy in the region afford not to make that distinction either?

Column

Russia — balancing between Hamas and Israel

Russia will try — and is already trying — to benefit from the Israeli-Hamas conflict, which has an unfortunate potential to develop into a regional conflict.

Interview

EU should use 'all means' to end war in Gaza: Belgian minister

The EU should use "all means" possible to end the violence in Gaza, including sanctions, a peace conference, and a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, Belgian development cooperation minister Caroline Gennez told EUobserver.

Opinion

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us