Displaced Palestinian women pass by a destroyed structure in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 14 February 2024. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER


Ireland and Spain push EU on Israel’s human-rights obligations in Gaza


The Prime Ministers of Ireland and Spain have sent a joint letter to the European Union calling for action regarding the “deteriorating” situation in the Gaza Strip.

They demand an “urgent assessment” to clarify whether Israel is acting in accordance with its human-rights obligations, defined under a prior trade deal it made with the EU.

The leaders’ letter comes as global pressure mounts on Israel to delay an invasion of the vastly overcrowded Southern Gaza-Egypt border city of Rafah.

The Irish and Spanish Prime Ministers outlined in the communication that the likelihood of such action is “a grave and imminent threat that the international community must urgently confront”.

“We also recall the horror of October 7 and call for the release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire that can facilitate access for urgently needed humanitarian supplies,” the leaders’ letter said.

They also called on the European Commission to propose “appropriate measures” that could be taken if Israel was found to be in breach of human-rights obligations under the trade agreement.

A suspension of that deal with Israel could be a possible response.

Israel and the EU have had the agreement since 2002. In 2022, trade between the EU and Israel was worth €46.8 billion.

Additionally, both Prime Ministers stressed that they supported maintaining EU financing for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). They stated that the agency should be permitted to carry on its “crucial task” of saving lives and addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

That comes as recent reports have alleged more than 1,200 UNRWA employees are members of either the Hamas terrorist group or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

Some also claimed there were Hamas tunnels underneath the UNRWA headquarters powered by the UN agency’s generators.

Asked about the letter during the midday press briefing, Nabila Massrali, spokesperson for the EC, said it was received and “they were looking into it”.

She added that the EC “urged all sides to respect international law” and noted there “must be accountability for violations of international law”, while insisting the EU “consistently underlines the protection of all civilians, at all times”.

Massrali said that position was always conveyed to all parties and that the only way to reach a peaceful conclusion to the Israel-Gaza conflict was through a two-state solution.

Regarding further decisions, Massrali said the responsibility lay with the European Council as it is a “foreign policy issue”. She added that, in principle, unanimity was required for such.

Spain and Ireland have been critical of Israel regarding the conflict, questioning the country’s respecting of human rights in Gaza since the Hamas attack on October 7.

Other European countries also expressed concern over the situation in Rafah.

Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, currently the holding the presidency of the European Council, said an assault on the city could lead to an “unmitigated humanitarian catastrophe”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock similarly warned that an armed offensive against Rafah would further jeopardise the already desperate humanitarian situation there.

October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists launched a large-scale attack against Israel, killing 1,200 people, most of whom were civilians. They also took around 250 hostages.

The day’s actions are widely regarded as the most serious assault on Israel and the Jewish population since the Second World War.