(EurActiv) — European Council President Charles Michel said on Saturday (14 October) that he had convened a video conference summit of European Union leaders on Tuesday to discuss the Hamas attacks on Israelis and Israel’s response.
Michel said the bloc stood in “full solidarity” with the people of Israel after the “brutal terrorist attacks” of a week ago.
In an invitation letter to EU leaders, Michel said Israel had the right to defend itself in compliance with international law.
He said the siege of the Gaza Strip was raising alarm bells in the international community, prompting him to convene a video conference meeting on Tuesday at 1730 CET (1530 GMT).
“It is of utmost importance that the European Council, in line with the treaties and our values, sets our common position and establishes a clear unified course of action that reflects the complexity of the unfolding situation,” he wrote.
Michel said the EU had to be an advocate of peace and respect for international law and should seek to avoid a regional escalation of the situation.
Michel said the conflict had the potential to feed extremism in EU societies and could prompt migration and movements of a large number of people to neighbouring countries.
EU triples aid to Gaza
The European Commission said on Saturday that it was tripling its current humanitarian assistance for Gaza to €75 million and would work with United Nations agencies to ensure the aid reaches those in need.
“The Commission supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Hamas terrorists, in full respect of international humanitarian law,” the EU executive said in a statement.
“We are working hard to ensure that innocent civilians in Gaza are provided support in this context.”
The European Union decided earlier this week to maintain aid to Palestinians, backtracking after a commissioner said the European Commission was putting all its development aid for Palestinians, worth 691 million euros, under review.
The UN humanitarian office (OCHA) appealed on Friday for nearly $294 million to help some 1.3 million people in Gaza and the West Bank, nearly half for food aid as supplies run out.
Gaza braces for Israeli ground assault
Israeli troops prepared on Sunday for a ground assault on the Hamas-controlled Gaza, and Iran warned of “far-reaching consequences” if Israel’s bombardment was not stopped.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the militant group Hamas in retaliation for a rampage in which its fighters stormed through Israeli towns eight days ago, shooting men, women and children and seizing hostages in the worst attack on civilians in the country’s history.
Gaza authorities said more than 2,200 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes, a quarter of them children, and nearly 10,000 wounded. Rescue workers searched desperately for survivors of nighttime air raids. One million people had reportedly left their homes.
Risk of spillover
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government told Lebanese militant group Hezbollah not to start a war on a second front, threatening the “destruction of Lebanon” if it did.
Iran’s mission go the United Nations warned late on Saturday that if Israel’s “war crimes and genocide” were not halted immediately, “the situation could spiral out of control” and have far-reaching consequences.
Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday in Qatar, where they discussed the Palestinian group’s attack in Israel “and agreed to continue cooperation” to achieve the group’s goals, Hamas said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden and other world leaders warned against any country broadening the conflict. And international organizations and aid groups urged calm and pressed Israel to allow humanitarian assistance to get through.
In New York, Russia asked the UN Security Council to vote on Monday on a draft resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict that calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and condemns violence against civilians and all acts of terrorism.
On Saturday, Biden called Netanyahu and, while reiterating “unwavering” support for Israel, discussed international coordination to ensure innocent civilians have access to water, food and medical care.
Biden also spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who stressed the urgent need to allow urgent humanitarian aid corridors in Gaza.
The US Department of Defense said the Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group would start moving towards the Eastern Mediterranean to join another carrier strike group already there.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was “part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”