EU slams Hamas use of hospitals and civilians as human shields, as IDF nears Shifa

Turkish ship carrying supplies to build field hospitals arrives in Egyptian port el-Arish as Israeli military seeks to destroy Hamas command centers in hospitals

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rings a bell to signify the start of a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, November 13, 2023. (AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo)
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rings a bell to signify the start of a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, November 13, 2023. (AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo)

The 27 European Union nations have jointly condemned Hamas for what they described as the terror group’s use of hospitals and civilians as “human shields” in its war against Israel, as a Turkish ship carrying supplies to establish field hospitals arrived at an Egyptian port near the Gaza Strip.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Monday that at the same time, the bloc asked Israel “for maximum restraint and targeting in order to avoid human casualties.”

At a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers, Borrell brandished a statement he issued on behalf of the 27 nations as a show of unity following weeks of often contrasting statements on how the group should address the Israel-Hamas war.

“You know how difficult it has been the last times, after the vote in the United Nations, where countries were voted in different ways, to present a completely united approach,” Borrell said. Only hours after EU leaders professed unity over the Israel-Hamas war on October 28, the member states were totally split in a vote on a General Assembly resolution calling for humanitarian truces in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Now, though, the EU nations said in a statement that they join “calls for immediate pauses in hostilities and the establishment of humanitarian corridors, including through increased capacity at border crossings and through a dedicated maritime route, so that humanitarian aid can safely reach the population of Gaza.”

And they reiterated their “call on Hamas for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. It is crucial that the International Committee of the Red Cross is granted access to the hostages.”

Palestinians seen at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, November 10, 2023. (Flash90)

And as a key tenet, it said that “the EU condemns the use of hospitals and civilians as human shields by Hamas.”

One of Hamas’s main command centers is widely believed to be located under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, which the Israel Defense Forces has closed in on in recent days.

On Sunday, the IDF said it had supplied 300 liters of fuel to Shifa Hospital, in coordination with its staff, but that Hamas had prevented the embattled medical center from accepting it. It was unclear how much fuel the hospital would need to run essential services.

Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins said that “Hamas is unfortunately using civilian infrastructure and civilians as shields against the Israeli Defense Forces. So the situation absolutely not black and white.”

He added that “no one in the West is interested in supporting any terrorist organization.”

The nations stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, which Israel and its supporters say would benefit Hamas.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she understood “the impetus for a ceasefire.” But she said those who seek one must answer questions “for example, how can the demand for a ceasefire, acutely, and now in this terrible situation guarantee that Israel’s security is assured? What happens with the 200 hostages, and who negotiates it in a situation where negotiations barely seem possible?”

Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas in Gaza after the terror group started the war with a murderous rampage through southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 people captive.

The Hamas-run health ministry claims that more than 11,000 people have been killed since the start of the war. These figures cannot be independently verified, and do not distinguish between civilians and Hamas operatives, nor do they differentiate between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

File: Eight children were found dead in this house at Kibbutz Be’eri, killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023. (David Horovitz/Times of Israel)

Turkish field hospital docks in Sinai port

Meanwhile, a Turkish vessel carrying materials for field hospitals arrived Monday in Egypt’s port of el-Arish near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, a port official said.

It was the first such aid vessel to arrive in Egypt since the war broke out. Italy and France are also sending hospital ships that are expected to also be stationed near Gaza.

A Turkish health official told AFP that the vessel was carrying “materials, generators, ambulances to establish eight field hospitals.”

The Turkish official added that Ankara had requested Cairo’s approval to build the field hospitals in el-Arish, which lies about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Rafah border — the only crossing to Gaza not controlled by Israel.

“We received the green light from Egyptian authorities. We will set up these hospitals in the areas shown by the Egyptian authorities,” the official said.

The delivery comes as Hamas government officials said all hospitals in northern Gaza were “out of service” amid fuel shortages as a result of fighting with Israeli forces.

The Hamas government’s Deputy Health Minister Youssef Abu Rish claimed Monday that the death toll inside Shifa had risen to 27 adult intensive care patients and seven babies since the weekend as the facility suffered fuel shortages. The numbers could not been independently verified.

Israel has been pushing for field hospitals and other alternatives to the existing medical centers in Gaza, because of Hamas’s operation of command centers beneath them.

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