EU warns Israel over military operation in Rafah

The EU has urged Israel to immediately end its military operation in Rafah in southern Gaza, warning that failure to do so would undermine relations with the bloc according to a statement.

The warning comes as Israeli forces in recent days have pressed deeper into the city in pursuit of what they say are four Hamas battalions. The offensive was launched despite international calls to hold off to avoid mass civilian casualties as more than a million people fleeing the Israel-Hamas conflict have sought refuge in Rafah.
“The European Union is calling on Israel to refrain from further exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and reopen the crossing point of Rafah,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“Should Israel continue its military operation in Rafah, it would inevitably put a heavy strain on the EU’s relationship with Israel,” he cautioned.
The statement pointed out that the Israeli offensive is further disrupting the distribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza and is leading to “more internal displacement, exposure to famine and human suffering.”
While the EU “recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself,” it must do so in line with international humanitarian law and ensure the safety of civilians, the statement stressed, adding that West Jerusalem is obligated to allow and facilitate unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians.

Borrell also called on all parties to “redouble their efforts” to achieve an immediate ceasefire and the “unconditional” release of all hostages held by Hamas.
Qatar, one of the international mediators in the Israel-Hamas conflict, said this week that ceasefire talks had reached an impasse following the Israeli offensive in Rafah.
Israel declared war on Hamas in Gaza following the militant group’s deadly October 7 incursion, which claimed over 1,100 lives and saw hundreds of Israelis taken hostage.
Over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed and 78,755 wounded as a result of Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza, according to the health authorities in the enclave.