EU top diplomat urges Israel-Palestinian ceasefire

The EU has struggled to find a common position on the fighting. Some of the bloc's 27 members have backed Israel, while others support the Palestinians.

Rockets fired towards Israel from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, are intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome Aerial Defence System on 10 May 2021. Picture: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

BRUSSELS - EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday called for the implementation of a ceasefire to stop fighting between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence, and the implementation of a ceasefire," Borrell said, after a video conference of EU foreign ministers.

His statement was backed by all but one of the bloc's 27 member states, he said. Hungary - which has strongly supports Israel - refused to support it.

"The purpose is to protect civilians, and to give full humanitarian access in Gaza," Borrell said.

The "high number of civilian casualties, deaths and injured" from the upsurge in fighting, including children and women, was "unacceptable", he said.

"We fully support Israel's right to defence, but we have also considered and stated that this has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law," he added.

Israel's intense bombing campaign has killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza in more than a week of fighting against Islamist group Hamas, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

The death toll on the Israeli side rose to 12 on Tuesday when a volley of rockets Hamas fired at the southern Eshkol region killed two Thai nationals working in a factory and wounded several others.

The EU has struggled to find a common position on the fighting. Some of the bloc's 27 members have backed Israel, while others support the Palestinians.

Borrell has said he is conducting "intense" diplomatic efforts by calling Israeli, Palestinian and regional officials.

But the push from Brussels has been hamstrung by the lack of unity in European capitals.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto criticised EU statements on Israel, in an interview with AFP in Paris.

"I have a general problem with these European statements on Israel...," said Szijjarto.

"These are usually very much one-sided, and these statements do not help, especially not under current circumstances, when the tension is so high."

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