Von der Leyen supports Israel's response despite the risk of catastrophe in Gaza | International

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The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, maintains her strong support for Israel's response to the Hamas attack, despite the risk of humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. This Friday, during a visit to Israel with Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, Von der Leyen reiterated the EU's support after the Hamas incursions, in which 1,300 people were killed. “Israel has the right to defend itself. And he even has the duty to defend and protect his people,” she said together with the country's president, Isaac Herzog. The visit of the European leaders occurs while the Israeli army maintains its 24-hour ultimatum to Gaza to evacuate more than 1.1 million civilians to the south of the strip, after a siege of several days in which it has ended basic supplies while bombing the area, something contrary to international law, as well as forced population movements. Shortly before, during a visit to one of the kibbutz (collective agricultural farm) attacked by the Islamist organization, the head of the community Executive timidly pointed out that the Palestinians and their "humanitarian needs" must be taken into account.

The fact that Von der Leyen, for days, has not marked any distance with the Israeli bombings on the Strip, in which nearly 1,800 people have already died, nor with the ultimatum of the Executive of Benjamin Netanyahu (predictable prelude of a ground operation on Gaza), has generated tensions within part of his team at the European Commission. Also in the community institutions, which have shown their solidarity with Israel and have highlighted its right to defend itself, but have also warned that it must do so respecting international law and the law of war.

The European Commissioner for Crisis Management and Humanitarian Aid, Janez Lenarcic, for example, highlighted it this Friday on social networks, as was emphasized by the High Representative for Foreign Policy and Defense, Josep Borrell, who on Tuesday was the first member of the Community Executive in urging Israel to comply with international law and to verify that the siege of Gaza violates it.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, who has also shown strong support for Israel and increased aid, spoke on Thursday during his visit to Israel of “proportionality” in the Israeli response to Hamas attacks. Although this Friday, Blinken, who met in Jordan with the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmud Abbas, assured that Israel's objective is not the civilians of Gaza. He has also assured that he is in contact with Israel so that it “takes precautions to avoid harming civilians.”

The position of the president of the European Commission also clashes with the claims of the Twenty-seven, who through their foreign ministers have asked for respect for humanitarian law and on Tuesday demanded that Israel guarantee access to the Strip, governed by Hamas. , to water, electricity and food, and to facilitate the opening of humanitarian corridors.

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The German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, who also visited Israel this Friday and met with her counterpart, Eli Cohen, has highlighted respect for international legislation and has accused Hamas of using the population as a human shield. “Fighting Hamas poses enormous challenges for everyone, precisely because as democracies we take seriously humanitarian imperatives, the basic protection of civilians. This is what separates us from the terrorists,” said Baerbock. “Civilians need safe spaces where they can find protection and receive essential goods. We are in talks about this with Egypt and the UN and I also mention here [en Israel] the matter,” the German launched.

Von der Leyen's position differs from the one she maintained, for example, during the Russian army's siege of the port city of Mariupol, in Ukraine. Some internal critics believe that this heeled position, in addition to turning a deaf ear to a human catastrophe like the one experienced in Gaza, could further damage the EU's role in the region. The Union is one of the largest donors for development projects to the Palestinians - aid now under review to verify that not one euro goes directly or indirectly to Hamas - but it is not a relevant actor for Israel, unlike the United States. United States, France or Germany. This resentment for ignoring the siege of Gaza is added to that which has given rise to a new invasion of the powers of the German conservative in foreign policy - which is the sphere of the head of community diplomacy - without consulting or agreeing with the Twenty-seven.

Gaza is a territory from which it is almost impossible to leave. Furthermore, this Friday, Hamas militants, considered a terrorist organization in the EU, have asked the population of the Strip not to heed Israel's ultimatum, which they have defined as propaganda. The population density of the Strip is 5,500 people per square kilometer, 60 times that of Spain. After internal criticism of Von der Leyen, a community spokesperson highlighted this Friday that international legislation states that civilians must be notified of upcoming military operations. “This is what Israel has done,” he added.

The UN, however, has spoken not only of the risk, but of the difficulty of evacuating that part of the Strip and the impossibility of doing so with Egypt's borders closed. The head of European diplomacy has also described the operation as “unrealistic.”

A few hours before the arrival of Metsola - who had already planned a visit to Israel before the attacks, to which the president of the Commission has joined - and Von der Leyen, the Israeli army dropped leaflets on Gaza calling for evacuation. .

“The despicable actions of Hamas are the hallmark of terrorists,” said the head of the community Executive in an appearance with Prime Minister Netanyahu. “And I know that Israel's response will demonstrate that it is a democracy,” she added.

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