German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday he opposed an “immediate” ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, as calls multiply globally to halt the conflict triggered by Hamas’s devastating onslaught on Israel.
Meanwhile, the UK’s defense secretary hailed Israeli efforts to protect innocent civilians during the conflict and defended the military’s ongoing operation, while the EU’s foreign policy chief released a statement condemning Hamas’s use of human shields in the enclave.
Israel has relentlessly pounded the Hamas-ruled enclave and sent in troops on a mission to eliminate the terror group since the terror group’s deadly October 7 assault on southern Israel.
“I don’t think the calls for an immediate ceasefire or long pause — which would amount to the same thing — are right,” Scholz said in a debate organized by the German regional daily Heilbronner Stimme.
“That would mean ultimately that Israel leaves Hamas the possibility of recovering and obtaining new missiles,” he added, calling instead for “humanitarian pauses.”
UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps backed the ongoing offensive in an interview with Sky News and praised Israeli efforts to evacuate civilians from the battlefield, adding that due to Hamas’s use of human shields, innocent lives would ultimately be lost in the war.
“When Britain bombed Dresden, 35,000 people apparently lost their lives,” he said, referencing the World War II bombing of the German city. “People die in war. When you have an organization like Hamas hiding and shielding themselves with and under the civilian population it’s a sad fact that some people will lose their lives.
“I think Israel is obviously in a difficult place because when they go after the terrorists, some civilians are getting caught up. No one wants to see civilian life, whether it’s an Israeli, or somebody from Gaza, taken,” he stated. “However, if Britain had been subject to an attack of terrorists coming in and murdering people, cutting off heads, and we knew where those terrorists had gone, no one would be saying to Britain, ‘just stop going after them.'”
“Those tunnels, those caves that they operate from, where all of those tens of thousands of rockets are being stored, how can we ask Israel not to go and destroy those bunkers?” he posed, referencing the network of tunnels Hamas has built underneath Gaza.
Also Sunday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned Hamas’s use of “hospitals and civilians as human shields” in Gaza, while also urging Israel to show “maximum restraint” to protect civilians from the war it is waging.
“The EU is gravely concerned about the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Borrell said in a statement.
The appeal went out as the Israel Defense Forces conducted fierce battles with gunmen in northern Gaza in the area around Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical facility. Israel says Hamas’s main command center is located in tunnels under Shifa.
Footage of the area appeared to show heavy fighting in the vicinity of the hospital, with the constant sounds of gunfire and explosions. Witnesses said that airstrikes had continued in the area overnight.
Health officials say thousands of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped in the area surrounding Shifa Hospital, with no electricity and dwindling supplies. The IDF has insisted civilians are able to leave the hospital from its eastern side, and that no military activity is taking place there. It also says it is working with the staff at hospitals in northern Gaza to aid them in safely evacuating.
Another facility, Al-Quds Hospital, was knocked out of service because of a lack of generator fuel, the Palestinian Red Crescent claimed.
“These hostilities are severely impacting hospitals and taking a horrific toll on civilians and medical staff,” the EU statement said.
“The EU emphasizes that international humanitarian law stipulates that hospitals, medical supplies and civilians inside hospitals must be protected.”
Notably, international law also states that hospitals lose their protection if they are used as a location from which to wage war.
The statement said “hospitals must also be supplied immediately with the most urgent medical supplies and patients that require urgent medical care need to be evacuated safely. In this context, we urge Israel to exercise maximum restraint to ensure the protection of civilians.”
“The EU condemns the use of hospitals and civilians as human shields by Hamas,” the statement said.
It reiterated Brussels’ stance that Israel has a “right to defend itself in line with international law and international humanitarian law.”
The EU called for speedy and “unhindered” humanitarian access so aid can reach Gazans suffering under more than a month of bombardment, displacement, and extremely limited water, food, fuel, and shelter.
It called on Hamas to release hostages its terrorists abducted during the October 7 attack on southern communities close and said it was “crucial” that the International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to the hostages.
“The EU joins calls for immediate pauses in hostilities and the establishment of humanitarian corridors,” it said.
Israel has designated routes for civilians to flee to the south of the Strip and has also declared pauses in fighting in certain neighborhoods to allow residents to evacuate.
Israel declared war with the aim of eliminating Hamas after terrorists rampaged through southern communities on October 7, brutally murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in their homes and at a music festival, and abducting at least 240 people into the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s intense aerial and ground offensive targeting Hamas infrastructure has killed over 11,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. The figure cannot be verified independently and is believed to include members of terror groups and civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.