EU condemns ‘utterly unacceptable’ Gaza rocket fire on Israeli civilians

EU condemns ‘utterly unacceptable’ Gaza rocket fire on Israeli civilians

‘Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks,’ UK Foreign Office says in updated travel advisory; Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv remains closed

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian rockets are being fired from Gaza city on November 12, 2019. (BASHAR TALEB/ AFP)
Palestinian rockets are being fired from Gaza city on November 12, 2019. (BASHAR TALEB/ AFP)

The European Union on Tuesday morning condemned as “utterly unacceptable” the barrage of more than 70 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian populations throughout the day in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander earlier in the day.

“This morning, Israel conducted an operation inside Gaza targeting a senior leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In response, rockets were fired from Gaza on southern and central Israel,” a statement from the EU foreign service said.

“The firing of rockets on civilian populations is totally unacceptable and must immediately stop,” it added. “A rapid and complete deescalation is now necessary to safeguard the lives and security of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

Foreign diplomats stationed in Israel on Tuesday expressed concern over the spiraling violence.

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, said he was “extremely concerned” about the evolving security situation. “A rapid desecalation [sic] is needed, indiscriminate rocket fire is unacceptable. Need to protect all civilians,” he wrote on his personal Twitter account.

German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer similarly tweeted that she was following “with great concern the evolving situation after sirens heard this morning in various cities in Israel, and collecting all relevant pieces of information.” She added that she hoped “that there won’t be injuries. Stay safe.”

The United Kingdom on Tuesday morning updated its travel warning for Israel and the Palestinian territories in light of the fraught security situation.

“You should keep up to date with the news and this travel advice while travelling,” the Foreign Office in London said on its website, warning UK citizens against traveling to Gaza and to areas near Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.

The updated travel advisory noted that on Tuesday “more than 60 rockets were launched from Gaza into Southern Israel and towards Rishon Le Zion and Holon,” and that Israel’s Home Front Command declared an emergency situation in southern Israel.

“The security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories can be fast moving, tense and unpredictable. You should be vigilant at all times and keep up to date with local media and travel reports,” the travel advisory warned.

“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” it said. “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including places frequented by foreigners, and on public transport.”

Several embassies in Tel Aviv, including those of Spain, Poland, Malta and Cyprus, urged heightened caution in light of the ongoing rocket attacks.

The Dutch embassy announced that it would remain closed for the time being, noting that it would update citizens as the day progresses.

The Polish said that, “for reasons beyond its control due to the security situation and binding instructions” by the IDF, the country’s Independence Day reception and concert planned for Monday night was cancelled.

“Apologizing for any inconvenience, we wish you and your families to stay safe and secure in this difficult period,” the embassy said in an email to those who were invited to the event.

In the early hours of Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad terror group responsible for the firing dozens of rockets out of the Gaza Strip, prompting the massive retaliation.

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