EU leaders to debate calling for ‘humanitarian pause’ in Gaza

BRUSSELS — EU leaders will later today debate calling for a “humanitarian pause” in Israel’s war with Hamas, as the bloc grapples with another conflict on its fringes alongside Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union has struggled for both unity and influence in the face of the crisis that has engulfed the Middle East since Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel on October 7.

The surge in bloodshed has stretched Europe’s attention at a time of rising doubts about the West’s ability to keep supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

The 27-nation bloc has long been split between more pro-Palestinian members such as Ireland and Spain, and staunch backers of Israel including Germany and Austria.

After days of negotiations, a draft statement for the summit calls “for continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures including a humanitarian pause.”

That statement — which could change when leaders meet in Brussels — falls short of demands from the United Nations for a “ceasefire.”

Germany, wary of urging a more definitive halt that could tie Israel’s hands, has mooted calls for humanitarian “windows” or “pauses” in the plural.

“Letters, commas, language matter, and that’s how you find agreements,” says a senior EU official.

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