EU calls for 'meaningful' pauses in Gaza fighting

AFP , Monday 13 Nov 2023

The EU's humanitarian aid chief called Monday for "meaningful" pauses in the fighting in Gaza and urgent deliveries of fuel to keep hospitals working in the territory.

Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City
File Photo: People search through debris outside the site of the Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza City on October 18, 2023 in the aftermath of an overnight strike. AFP


"It is urgent to define and respect humanitarian pauses," Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, told a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers in Brussels.

"Fuel needs to get in. As you could see, more than half of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip stopped working, primarily because of lack of fuel, and fuel is desperately needed."

The appeal went out as battles between Israeli and Hamas forces have raged around Gaza's largest hospital, which has become the focus in the five-week-old war.

The Palstanian health ministry said Monday the hospitals in the centre of the heaviest fighting in north Gaza have been forced out of service amid shortages and the fierce combat.

The EU's 27 countries issued a statement Sunday saying hospitals "must be protected" and condemning Hamas for using the medical facilities and civilians as "human shields".

The statement also emphasizing that international humanitarian law stipulates that hospitals, medical supplies and civilians inside hospitals must be protected and hospitals must also be supplied immediately with the most urgent medical supplies and patients that require urgent medical care need to be evacuated safely. 

The bloc demanded "immediate humanitarian pauses" to allow desperately needed aid into the besieged territory.

"These pauses have to be meaningful," Lenarcic said.

"First of all, they have to be announced well in advance of the implementation so organisations can prepare to exploit them. Second, they have to be clearly defined time-wise."

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted that "Gaza needs more aid from any point of view".

"Water, fuel, food. This aid is available, is in the border waiting to come in," he said.

Borrell announced that he would travel to "Israel, Palestine, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan this week to discuss humanitarian access and assistance and political issues with regional leaders".

The Israeli army is pushing on with its campaign aimed at destroying Hamas after Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7, which it says killed 1,200 Israeli, and took about 240 captives in the country's worst-ever offensive.

But Israel is facing intense international pressure to minimise civilian suffering amid its massive air and ground operation, which the Palestinian health ministry say has killed at least 11,180 people, including 4,609 children.

Israel said 44 of its troops have been killed since Israel launched its ground operation in the Strip. The total death toll among Israeli soldiers is 361 since the war began on October 7.

Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said that hospitals in Gaza should not be turned into "battlefields".

"Patients who are in intensive care units have no chance," he said.

"There is no more oxygen, there is no more water, there are no more medicines. So these people are going to die."

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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