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4th Mar 2024

Arab diplomats voice anger at EU inaction on Gaza war

  • Arab envoys spoke to press nearby to European Commission HQ in Brussels (Photo: European Commission)
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Palestine's EU envoy and 15 other Arab diplomats have voiced outrage at Europe's inaction on Israel's killing in Gaza.

"Europe could do a lot — a lot. It's enough now if the Europeans say they'll cut all commercial relations with Israel," said Palestinian ambassador Abdalrahim Alfarra in Brussels on Thursday (19 October).

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"What's happening now is a massacre under the eyes of the whole world," he said.

"Today we speak of 1,500 children [among Palestinian casualties], 1,500 children! Are they terrorists?," he said.

People in the Arab world were "shocked and horrified ... angered at the silence of the international community," said Jordan's EU envoy, Saja Majali.

Lebanese people were "very afraid ... very distressed by what might come to them and what they are seeing in Gaza," Lebanon's EU ambassador Fadi Hajali said.

"It's very dangerous not only for our neighbourhood but also for you, for Europe," said Egypt's EU envoy Badr Abdelatty, commenting on the risk of spillover of violence from the Middle East to Europe.

The Arab diplomats spoke to press two days after a bomb strike on the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza killed hundreds of people.

Israel and the US have said it was a stray rocket fired by Palestinian fighters.

But the 15 Arab ambassadors stood behind Palestine's Alfarra, while wearing pro-Palestinian scarves, as he accused Israel of lying about its own Al-Ahli culpability.

The other countries represented were Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.

"I think, I hope, I wish all you [European] media won't follow Israeli lies. It's enough. It's enough," Alfarra said.

Jordan's Majali challenged Israel to accept an "independent international enquiry" into Al-Ahli.

She had seen screenshots of deleted Israeli Defence Force tweets "indicating that the Israelis had done this", she said.

Alfarra criticised EU officials who visited Israel after the war broke out and who lit up the European Commission HQ in the colours of the Israeli flag, but not the Palestinian flag.

"Tel Aviv is like, everybody is going there to show solidarity and sympathy with Israel," he said, accusing the EU of one-sidedness.

Palestinian paramilitary group Hamas murdered over 1,300 Israelis in a surprise attack on 7 October in what Alfarra also called an "atrocious" act.

Alfarra's Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, calls for a two-state solution to the conflict and peaceful resistance.

Hamas, which is based in Gaza, is designated as a "terrorist" entity by the EU and calls for the destruction of Israel via armed struggle.

The joint EU line is that Israel has a right to destroy Hamas, but must fight the Gaza war in line with international law.

But individual EU personalities have been hitting different notes.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, for instance, has broadly backed Israel's reaction, while EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell has said Israel's siege of Gaza was illegal.

Von der Leyen hadn't spoken with any Palestinian representatives since the war, while Borrell had reached out to Arab states.

Borrell, speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, also compared the situation of Palestinians in Gaza to that of Ukrainians after Russia bombed their water supplies last winter.

"This was very much appreciated. Palestinian people are not lesser human beings [than Europeans]," Jordan's Majali said.

The Egyptian envoy said trucks carrying EU and UN aid to Gaza were waiting on Egypt's side of the Rafah crossing point pending Israeli promises that they would not be bombed if they went further.

"Everybody is there. Waiting. We're waiting for security guarantees that those convoys won't be targeted," Abdelatty said.

"To forcibly transfer Palestinians from their own land to the other side of the border is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention," he said, by way of explanation why Egypt would not take in Palestinian refugees.

If the 2.3 million people in Gaza left, it would "liquidate the whole Palestinian [statehood] cause and nobody would accept it," he added.

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