Israel Palestine Conflict

Top EU officials call for probe into Gaza civilians killed while awaiting aid

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Europe’s top officials have called for an investigation into Israeli attack that killed 115 Palestinians and injured several others as they rushed to get food for their families.

Israeli army fire killed Palestinian civilians during aid delivery operations in Gaza on Thursday, European Union’s (EU) foreign affairs chief, Joseph Borrell, charged on Saturday, calling for an internal probe of the incident.

“Last Thursday, over a hundred civilians were killed and many others wounded when desperately trying to get food from a convoy, many of them victims of the Israeli army fire during the ensuing stampede,” Borrell said in a statement released by the EU’s External Action Service (EEAS).

“The firing by Israeli soldiers against civilians trying to access foodstuff is unjustifiable,” he said.

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Borrell said that Israel and other “extremist” who prevent aid from getting into Gaza were responsible for the “tragedy” as they contributed to creating a “level of desperation that brings about violence.”

“The responsibility for this incident lays on the restrictions imposed by the Israeli army and obstructions by violent extremist to the supply of humanitarian aid,” he said.

Israel initially denied claims that its forces fired at civilians awaiting aid before changing their stance, saying that officers fired warning shots to disperse the crowd and then fired at those who did not move away and were seen as a threat.

Israel also disputed the death toll saying it was “limited fire” and that most victims were trampled or run over.

On Friday, a number of EU leaders condemned the attack on Palestinian civilians.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called for a transparent probe into the attack without explicitly accusing Israel of being responsible.

“Deeply disturbed by images from Gaza. Every effort must be made to investigate what happened and ensure transparency,” she said on X, adding that “we stand by civilians, urging their protection in line with international law.”

European Council President, Charles Michel, said he was “shocked and repulsed” by the killing of over 100 civilians in Gaza by Israeli forces while seeking humanitarian aid.
In a social media post on X, he called for an immediate probe into the incident adding that international law “does not allow for double standards,” and the world must hold those responsible to account.

Michel also underlined the urgent need for a cease-fire to allow for humanitarian aid provided by “properly funded specialized agencies” such as the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to reach civilians.

French President Emanuel Macron, like Borrell, blamed the Israeli army for the incident.

“Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers,” he said on X.

“I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law.’

Macron described the situation in Gaza as “terrible,” and called for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian enclave. He also urged for humanitarian aid to be allowed in the region.

Collapse of aid distribution

Thursday’s incident underscored the collapse of orderly aid distribution in areas of Gaza occupied by Israeli forces with no other alternatives in place and the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA hampered by an inquiry into alleged links with Hamas. The agency is also facing severe funding cuts.

Safety challenges, including Israeli protestors stopping aid trucks, the frequent closure of crossings, and the looting and storming of humanitarian convoys by “desperate, hungry people,” pose enormous difficulties in getting aid into Gaza via land, according to UNRWA spokesperson Jonathan Fowler.

“The situation at the Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza is also unpredictable. It has been closed intermittently, and supplies have been low on the days when it was open this month,” Fowler told Al Arabiya English.

At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip – one-quarter of the population here – are one step away from famine, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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Borrell on Saturday urged Israel to cooperate with UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations in Gaza to allow unimpeded aid access through al crossing points.

“We urge Israel to remove immediately the obstacles at Kerem Shalom crossing, and open the access in the north at Karni and Erez crossings, to open the port of Ashdod to humanitarian aid and to allow a direct humanitarian corridor from Jordan,” he said, adding that air dropping aid, “should be the solution of last resort as their impact is minimal and not devoid of risks to civilians.”

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