EU leaders are poised to call for humanitarian corridors in Gaza and for pauses in bombardments into and out of the enclave to enable access for aid, after days of wrangling that highlighted divisions within the bloc over the Israel-Hamas conflict.
While EU leaders have strongly condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel, they have struggled to stick to the same message beyond that, with some stressing Israel’s right to self-defence and others emphasising concern about Palestinian civilians.
As leaders gather for a summit in Brussels on Thursday, diplomats and officials have spent days debating whether to call for a “humanitarian pause” or “pauses” in the plural.
A text intended as a final draft for the summit declaration includes the latter, expressing leaders’ “gravest concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza”.
Thursday’s summit is the first in-person meeting of the EU’s 27 national leaders since the deadly Oct. 7 assault on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which prompted Israel to bombard and blockade Hamas-run Gaza.
Countries such as France, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Ireland had endorsed calls from the United Nations for a break in the conflict for humanitarian reasons.
But others such as Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria resisted, arguing such a measure could curb Israel’s ability to defend itself and let Hamas regroup, according to diplomats.
Diplomats said the text seemed to have broad acceptance among EU member countries but it was not clear whether leaders would demand any final changes before signing off on it.
EU leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have visited the Middle East to express solidarity with Israel and bolster diplomatic efforts to prevent the conflict spiralling into a regional war.
(Inputs from Reuters)