21st May 2022

EU says 'nothing can justify' Israeli Qana airstrike

The EU has fiercely condemned the Israeli airstrike on the Lebanese village of Qana over the weekend as "unjustifiable," while Germany has indicated its military is too overburdened to take part in a UN peace mission to the region.

EU institutions issued a series of co-ordinated statements following Israel's attack on Sunday morning (30 June) on a house in a Lebanese village which killed more than 50 civilians, among them more than 30 children.

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Israel apologised for the incident, but said the village had been used by islamist Hezbollah fighters launching rockets on Israel, while civilians had been warned in advance to evacuate the place.

But officials from the Finnish EU presidency, the European Commission as well as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana agreed to condemn the bombing as "unjustifiable."

"There is no justification for attacks causing casualties among innocent civilians, most of whom are women and children," a Finnish presidency statement said.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, external relations commissioner, said "Israel's attack on the city of Qana means an escalation of violence that is unjustifiable at a time when the international community is jointly working to find a solution to the conflict."

Mr Solana declared that "nothing can justify" the attack and the death of innocent civilians in Qana.

Sensitive wording

Since the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah began on 12 July, the bloc has walked on a diplomatic tightrope to find a common response, particularly when reacting to Israel's actions.

A 17 July foreign ministers meeting saw EU states watering down language proposed by Helsinki condemning Israel's offensive as "disproportionate," with states such as Germany and the UK promoting a more lenient line towards Israel.

The ministers will meet again for an emergency session on the Middle East tomorrow (1 August), with discussions expected to centre around the need for an "immediate ceasefire" – as pressed for by France.

The leaders of the UK and Germany, prime minister Tony Blair and chancellor Angela Merkel, in a joint statement after the Qana attack stressed the "urgency of the need for a ceasefire as soon as possible," but refrained from using the word "immediate."

"It is now necessary to work in New York on the preconditions for such a ceasefire," the Blair-Merkel statement said.

The UN security council after a Sunday emergency session also failed to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, with the US objecting to the idea arguing Israel's security should be dealt with first.

EU troops discussion

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers are on Tuesday also to address proposals for a UN peace force for the Israeli-Lebanese border.

EU top diplomat Mr Solana said last week "I cannot imagine the force without any Europeans," adding "It is fundamental that some European countries will participate."

But Germany's Ms Merkel told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag over the weekend that her country's military capacities are "largely exhausted" with Berlin already providing peacekeeping contingents to Congo, the western Balkans and Afghanistan.

Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot said earlier that a Middle East operation would be "for others" to do, with the Hague also overburdened by peace-keeping operations elsewhere.

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