EU set to discuss Rafah mission, policy chief Borrell criticizes Israel’s Netanyahu

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The European Union aims to agree in principle on Monday to press ahead with an EU border mission at Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday.

Speaking before a monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers, Borrell also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of using false claims of antisemitism against the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his own political ends.

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The bloc is considering reviving its European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Rafah, which has not been operational since 2007, when the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized full control of Gaza.

The Rafah crossing is the main entry point for aid from Egypt, and has been closed since Israeli forces took control of it from the Gazan side nearly three weeks ago.

“Today we can have a political decision and then it needs to be implemented technically,” Borrell told reporters, adding that it could not be put into place without approval from Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians.

The civilian mission would need unanimous approval from the 27 EU member states. It was not immediately clear what the role of a revived EUBAM would be, and it would have to be adapted to reflect the potentially dangerous nature of such an operation.

Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said it would take some time for any decision on the mission to be put in place. Diplomats have said the mission was unlikely to be in place before hostilities in Rafah stopped.

Rafah city is now in the firing line amid an Israeli military assault which judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top United Nations court, said on Friday should immediately halt.

Swipe at Netanyahu

Israeli air strikes killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded dozens in the Rafah area on Monday and Borrell accused Israel of pushing ahead with military action in southern Gaza despite the ICJ ruling.

Israel contends that the ICJ ruling is not a general order to stop the offensive and that it allows for some military action in Rafah.

Borrell took a swipe at Netanyahu over his labelling of ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan decision’s to seek arrest warrants against him and his defense minister as evidence of “new antisemitism.”

Borrell described the comment as intimidation, saying accusations of antisemitism were made every time that anyone “does something that Netanyahu doesn’t like.”

“Their position about antisemitism against the prosecutor of the ICC is completely not acceptable,” he said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said he would ask other EU member states to give their official backing to the ICJ and take steps to ensure that Israel respects its decisions.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said ahead of the meeting that the World Court ruling is binding and must be respected.

“No Israeli hostage will be freed if more people now have to shelter in tents,” Baerbock said, referring to the streams of displaced people following Israel’s continued strikes.

“International humanitarian law applies for all, also for Israel’s conduct of the war,” she added.

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