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
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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.

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"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.


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?


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.


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.


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