The European Union on Tuesday called on Hamas and other Gaza terror groups to disarm, taking a strikingly pro-Israel stance and supporting the country’s “legitimate right to defend itself.”
The union’s 28 foreign ministers issued a joint statement after a meeting of the European Council, calling for an end to Hamas rocket attacks and an immediate ceasefire.
“The EU calls on Hamas to immediately put an end to these acts and to renounce violence. All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm,” it said.
It also condemned the rocket fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip as “criminal and unjustifiable acts,” but said Israel must do more to prevent civilian casualties.
“While recognizing Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks, the EU underlines that the Israeli military operation must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law,” it said.
The statement came as the Israeli and Palestinian death tolls climbed steadily, with some 30 Israelis killed since the operation began, and more than 600 Palestinians, many of them civilians, according to Palestinian officials in Hamas-run Gaza.
The EU, which is often stridently critical of Israeli policies, also decried Hamas’s “calls on the civilian population of Gaza to provide themselves as human shields.”
It said it was “extremely concerned” about the situation, and reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire.
The EU also appealed for the open of crossings to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and emphasized that the current campaign pointed to “the unsustainable nature of the status quo” in the coastal enclave.
Earlier in the day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned Hamas rocket fire and called on the group to stop using civilian sites for military purposes. He also called for a ceasefire.
Responding to the EU statement, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the statement proved “that the free world is united with Israel against Hamas terror, and Israel has the full right to protect itself.”