EU urges Israel to end Rafah military operation ‘immediately’

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The European Union on Wednesday urged Israel to end its military operation in Gaza’s Rafah “immediately,” warning that failure to do so would undermine ties with the bloc.

“Should Israel continue its military operation in Rafah, it would inevitably put a heavy strain on the EU’s relationship with Israel,” said the statement issued in the EU’s name by its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

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“The European Union urges Israel to end its military operation in Rafah immediately,” the statement said, warning it was “further disrupting the distribution of humanitarian aid in Gaza and is leading to more internal displacement, exposure to famine and human suffering.”

The bloc - the main aid donor for the Palestinian territories and Israel’s biggest trading partner - said more than a million people in and around Rafah had been ordered by Israel to flee the area to other zones the UN says cannot be considered safe.

“While the EU recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, Israel must do so in line with International Humanitarian Law and provide safety to civilians,” it said.

The law requires Israel to allow in humanitarian aid, the statement stressed.

The EU also condemned a Hamas attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing which blocked humanitarian relief supplies.

“We call on all parties to redouble their efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire and the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas,” it said.

Israel’s military operations in Gaza were launched in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israeli which killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, and saw around 250 hostages taken, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s military has conducted a relentless bombardment from the air and a ground offensive inside Gaza that has killed more than 35,000, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

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Israel’s main allies, the United States and the EU, as well as the United Nations, have all warned Israel against a major operation in Rafah given that it would add to the civilian toll.

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