June 23. 2024. 6:46

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EU reaction to Israel’s missile strike on Iran comes with warning on Gaza


EU High Representative Josep Borrell has responded to Israel’s reported missile strike on Iran by saying it only confirms the need to avoid further escalation “because the fundamental thing is to stop the war in Gaza, not extend it to other countries”. He was speaking at the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Italy and said they will do well to call on all actors in the Middle East to maintain maximum caution in their military responses, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

The High Representative for Foreign Affairs said that at the G7 meeting on the island of Capri, “all attention is focused on what is happening in the Middle East” and that after the reports of new attacks, the G7 once again called on all actors to restrain themselves. He warned that any miscalculation of others’ reactions can lead to military escalation and the risk of war.

Israel has not yet confirmed that it launched missiles at Iran, although it had promised to respond to Iran’s drone and missile attack on its territory. That was in response to the Israeli attack on Iran’s diplomatic mission in Damascus, which killed six people.

Iran claims that the latest attack close to an airport and military base did no damage. Its own attack on Israel similarly did little harm, thanks to interception by Israeli air defences and aircraft, with help from some of its allies.

Josep Borrell added that the news of further attacks only confirms the need to avoid escalation “to ensure that the war in Gaza does not spread to the rest of the region because the fundamental thing is to stop the war in Gaza, not extend it to other countries”.

The EU has been clear in successive statements that its solidarity with Israel against Iran and against Hamas will not distract it from pressing for a ceasefire in Gaza and action to address the humanitarian crisis there. It also remains concern about escalating tensions and the killing of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In the latest move by the EU, four people and two organisations have been sanctions for what are described as serious human rights abuses against Palestinians, including torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as the violation of right to property and to private and family life of Palestinians in the West Bank.

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The organisations are Lehava, a radical right-wing Jewish supremacist group, and Hilltop Youth, a radical youth group consisting of members known for violent acts against Palestinians and their villages in the West Bank. Two of the sancitioned individuals, Meir Ettinger and Elisha Yered, are leading figures in Hilltop Youth, both linked by the EU to deadly attacks against Palestinians.

The other two individuals are Neria Ben Pazi, who is accused of repeatedly attacking Palestinians, and Yinon Levi, accused of taking part in multiple violent acts against Palestinian villages near an illegal Israeli settlement. The sanctions include the freezing of any assets in the EU, and a prohibition on funding the individuals and organisations, directly or indirectly. The four Israelis are also banned from entering the European Union.

In March, the European Council condemned extremist settler violence, stating that perpetrators must be held to account; and called for accelerated work on adopting relevant targeted restrictive measures. The European Council also condemned the Israeli government’s decisions to further expand illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank.

EU foreign ministers will again discuss the situation in the Middle East when they meet in Luxembourg on April 22. They are expected to focus on the ever-worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and on efforts towards de-escalation and building regional stability, including in Lebanon. They are also expected to progress the tightening of sanctions against Iran.

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