ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Says looking at sanctions for extremist West Bank settlers

Top EU diplomat: Gaza destruction proportionally ‘even greater’ than in WWII Germany

Josep Borrell says EU also ‘alarmed by the violence in the West Bank by extremist settlers,’ calls approval of 1,700 Jerusalem housing units a violation of international law

European Commission vice-president in charge for High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks to journalists as he arrives for a Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 11, 2023. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)
European Commission vice-president in charge for High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks to journalists as he arrives for a Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 11, 2023. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

The situation in Gaza is “catastrophic, apocalyptic,” with destruction proportionally “even greater” than that which Germany experienced in World War II, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Monday.

Israel’s military response to Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people and seized over 240 hostages, mostly civilians, has resulted in “an incredible number of civilian casualties,” Borrell said after chairing a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

He said the EU was also “alarmed by the violence in the West Bank by extremist settlers,” and condemned the government’s decision to approve 1,700 more housing units in Jerusalem, in what Brussels considers a violation of international law.

Hamas triggered the ongoing conflict with the deadliest-ever attack on Israel on October 7, in which some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air, and sea, under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those massacred were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas, and launched a military offensive that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed over 18,200, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The Hamas figures cannot be verified independently and do not differentiate between civilians and combatants. The Israel Defense Forces said last week have been killed at a two-to-one ratio.

While noting that Hamas’s bloody attacks had cemented its place on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations, Borrell made clear he saw Israel’s military operation as disproportionate in terms of civilian deaths and damage to civilian property and infrastructure.

“The human suffering constitutes an unprecedented challenge to the international community,” Borrell said.

A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke rising during an Israeli strike on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles with Hamas. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

“Civilian casualties are between 60 and 70 percent of the overall deaths,” based on Gaza health ministry figures, and “85% of the population is internally displaced.”

“The destruction of buildings in Gaza… is more or less or even greater than the destruction suffered by the German cities during the Second World War,” taken proportionally, Borrell said.

He said he had presented a discussion paper to the EU foreign ministers looking at “imposing sanctions against extremist settlers in West Bank,” who have stepped up attacks against Palestinian residents.

Borrell said he would soon make that a formal proposal, based on an initiative taken by the United States, which last week said it would refuse visas to extremist Israeli settlers.

He acknowledged, however, that there was as yet no unanimity among the 27 EU governments on the issue.

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