MEPs call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza Strip to avoid further civilian casualties

The demand came during a debate in Parliament on Tuesday on the recent upsurge in violence between Israel and Palestine.
European Parliament Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

20 May 2021

MEP calls for the EU to echo the demand for a ceasefire failed to materialise on Tuesday after Hungary vetoed a draft statement that would have called on both sides to engage in an “immediate” halt to the violence and the “implementation of a ceasefire.”

On Wednesday, Israel’s deadly fighting with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip entered a tenth day. France filed a resolution with the UN Security Council calling for an end to the violence, but it was only a draft. The US has also called for a ceasefire.

It was reported on Wednesday that the Israeli military operation was “continuing at full throttle.”

In a parliamentary debate, deputies said that a war would “only bring more pain and suffering”, adding that the EU and the international community “should speak out.”

Josep Borrell, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was due to make a statement to MEPs on the EU strategy towards Israel-Palestine.

Borrell also favours a ceasefire, but only 26 of the EU27 backed the call.

“Continuing the eye-for-an-eye policy will leave everyone blind. We call for an immediate cease-fire, to protect civilians’ lives and the precarious stability of the region” Pedro Marques, S&D

In the plenary debate with Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva, MEPs expressed “extreme concern” over the renewed escalation of violence and underlined the need for dialogue.

The Greens/EFA said in a statement that they were “shocked and saddened” by the escalation and added that the EU “needs to set out how it can help bring lasting peace to the region.”

Further comment comes from Parliament’s foreign affairs committee standing rapporteur for Palestine, S&D member Evin Incir, who said, “Violence must stop now. All parties involved in this new bloody conflict should refrain from further actions that could bring about more casualties. The number of victims among civilians is increasing every day, especially among children.”

“This is unacceptable and violates international humanitarian law. Neither is it acceptable the standstill in concrete terms of the whole international community whose evident divisions certainly do not facilitate the peace process.”

“The United Nations and all international actors have the duty to take their share of responsibility. We expect that the EU speaks out with a united voice, not only to give its concrete contribution to finally silence the guns, but also to proactively play its crucial role to achieve a long-lasting, fair and shared agreement based on the two-state solution.”

She added, “To this end, Israel must immediately stop its gradual but steady illegal annexation of occupied Palestine and the spreading of new settlements. We expect the next Israeli government will overturn this strategy and will not allow peace to be held hostage by Benjamin Netanyahu’s thirst of power.”

“Violence must stop now. All parties involved in this new bloody conflict should refrain from further actions that could bring about more casualties. The number of victims among civilians is increasing every day, especially among children” Evin Incir, S&D

Her colleague, Pedro Marques, the S&D’s foreign affairs spokesman, added, “Continuing the eye for an eye policy will leave everyone blind. We call for an immediate cease-fire, to protect civilians’ lives and the precarious stability of the region.”

“Conversations on a peaceful solution to implement the two-state solution, as defined by the UN, must follow. It is the only path to build an enduring peace for Palestinians and Israelis.”

However, the ECR group criticised “the instigation of violence by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad”, saying they were “two EU-listed terror organisations.”

It said, “Israel has the full and legitimate right to defend itself against terrorism of any form. The rocket attacks and terror activities must end. The ECR mourns the loss of innocent lives on both sides and wishes a swift recovery to those injured.”

The fighting began after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in occupied East Jerusalem that culminated in clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas, which controls Gaza, began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

At least 219 people, including almost 100 women and children, have been killed in Gaza so far, according to its health ministry. Israel has said at least 150 militants are among those killed in Gaza. Hamas does not give casualty figures for fighters.

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