EU laments the ‘unspeakable suffering’ Gaza rockets inflict on Israelis

UN chief Guterres urges all parties to ‘exercise maximum restraint’; Irish FM Coveney says ‘unjust treatment of Gaza’ won’t be solved by violence or terrorist attacks

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, speaks during a EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) at the European Council in Brussels on November 20, 2018. (John Thys/AFP)
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, speaks during a EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) at the European Council in Brussels on November 20, 2018. (John Thys/AFP)

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Sunday harshly condemned the rocket fire from Gaza and the “unspeakable suffering” it inflicts on Israeli citizens.

“Indiscriminate rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza must stop immediately: the European Union reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel,” Mogherini said in a statement.

She went on to express condolences “to the family of all the victims and to the Israeli people,” and wished a speedy recovery to the wounded.

As of Sunday evening, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza had fired more than 600 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing four Israeli civilians.

Israeli emergency personnel evacuate a wounded woman from the site of rocket attack in the southern town of Ashdod on May 5, 2019. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

“These attacks provoke unspeakable suffering to the Israelis and serve only the cause of endless violence and of an endless conflict,” Mogherini said.

“A new escalation risks also to reverse the work to relieve the suffering of the people in Gaza who are already paying a high price with many victims that we mourn. And it puts in further danger the prospects for long-term solutions, which will require the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, credible security guarantees for Israel and a lifting of restrictions of access and movement,” she said.

Brussels fully supports efforts by Egypt and the United Nations to “reduce tensions in Gaza and expect the parties to work with them to restore calm,” Mogherini continued.

“Together with the international community, we will keep working to bring relief to all those suffering from this conflict and cooperating with those who serve the cause of peace.”

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov is said to be working closely with Cairo, Jerusalem and the Palestinian terror groups in a bid to restore calm.

Also on Sunday, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over the risk of “yet another dangerous escalation and further loss of life on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.”

Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General delivers a speech during the opening of the COP24 summit on climate change in Katowice, Poland, on December 3, 2018. (Janek SKARZYNSKI/AFP)

Guterres condemns “in the strongest terms” the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, “particularly the targeting of civilian population centers,” his spokesperson said. “He urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint, immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months.”

Since the current round of violence erupted on Saturday, many individual European governments have issued statements condemning indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli civilians and urging restraint and calm, including those typically critical of Jerusalem’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians.

“I unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza over the last two days, which has led to civilian deaths and injuries,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement.

“These actions undermine the cause of the Palestinian people. The unjust treatment of Gaza and the suffering of people there will never be solved by violence or terrorist attacks.”

Coveney, speaking on behalf of the government of what is thought of to be Europe’s most pro-Palestinian country, called for “an end to indiscriminate attacks on civilians and for restraint in terms of the Israeli response, which has already led to several deaths in Gaza.”

His Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom‏, expressed alarm at the escalation in southern Israel, lamented the “[t]ragic loss of lives,” and invoked the [u]rgent need to protect civilians’ lives. She stopped short of explicitly condemning the Palestinian rocket fire on Israel.

Sweden is the only EU member state that recognizes a Palestinian state. The country’s left-wing government is a perennial critic of Israeli policies.

At the same time, right-wing European governments have issued statements very supportive of Israel.

“As a sincere friend of Israel, I strongly condemn the terrorist bombardment of this country so close to us. We must not be silent now, but loudly on Israel’s side!” said Czech President Milos Zeman.

Earlier on Sunday, his spokesperson Jiri Ovcacek posted on Twitter a photo of himself wearing an IDF hat, together with these words: “Israel faces a vile and insidious massive terrorist missile attack. We fight with you, friends! We are thinking about you!”

Poland’s foreign ministry in a statement condemned the “[m]assive and indiscriminate rocket fire” on Israeli cities as “an act of terror” that cannot be accepted.

On Saturday, a spokesperson for Austria’s government made a similar statement, saying Israel’s security was a raison d’etre for his country.

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