28th Feb 2024

'Hope and liberty' of Palestinians only way to peace, says EU chief

  • The reported number of children killed in Gaza has now exceeded 5,000, says the UNRWA, the agency operating there (Photo: UNRWA)
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Peace in Israel can only be secured if built on the hope, liberty, and dignity of the Palestinian people, according to Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief.

"Peace will be built on the hope of the Palestinian people, their hope to live in liberty and dignity. Without this there will be no peace," he said on Wednesday (22 November).

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Borrell also said Israel needs a Palestinian state more than anyone because the best guarantee of peace and security for Israel is the existence of a Palestinian state.

And he also called out the attacks against Palestinians by extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

The statement, made to the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, follows the release earlier Wednesday of 50 out of some 240 hostages seized by the Hamas terrorist group on 7 October.

Israel in return agreed to release 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, as well as halt all military actions in Gaza for four days.

European Commission president Von der Leyen welcomed the move, issuing a statement demanding Hamas immediately release all remaining hostages.

She also asked her commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič, to upscale further humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza.

Lenarčič, also speaking at the Strasbourg plenary on Wednesday, said that around 13,000 Palestinians have been reported killed and that 1.7 million are displaced within Gaza.

"We are seeing ongoing attacks on, and fighting around, medical facilities, which are protected under the international humanitarian law," he said.

And he noted acute shortages across Gaza of all the most basic needs, including food, medicines, aesthetics and water.

"Only nine out of 35 hospitals in Gaza are reportedly still functioning — and this only partially," he said, adding that at least 108 people working for the United Nations in Gaza have also been killed.

Lenarčič also took issue with Israel allowing in only 120,000 litres of fuel for humanitarian operations, noting it would only cover a third of daily needs.

And he said €100m of EU humanitarian funding for the occupied Palestinian territory is currently being rolled out through the help of he United Nations and others.

"We hope that the agreement on the pause of hostilities that has just been reached will allow for a substantial surge in humanitarian aid delivery into and within Gaza," he said.

Similar appeals have also been made by the civil society organisations.

In a statement, Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that a four-day humanitarian pause was not enough to address the needs caused by six weeks of fighting, bloodshed, and destruction.

"Neither hostages nor access to humanitarian relief should ever become bargaining chips in political or military negotiations," he said.

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