The EU states are toughening their tone towards Israel and calling for an immediate ceasefire in view of the dramatic plight of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. EU Council President Charles Michel announced this after talks between heads of state and government at the EU summit in Brussels. This should lead to a sustainable ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages held in the Gaza Strip and the provision of humanitarian aid, according to a statement adopted by the heads of state and government.

Israel is also urged not to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, which would worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent urgently needed basic humanitarian assistance. Around 1.5 million civilians currently live in the city – most of them are refugees from other parts of the Gaza Strip.

The decision of the International Court of Justice of January 26th is also mentioned as the background to the demand. It gave Israel a binding mandate under international law to do everything possible to prevent genocide in the Gaza Strip. All parties to the conflict must adhere to international law, including international humanitarian law.

Long discussions before the summit declaration

The agreement on the declaration was preceded by weeks of discussions between the member states. Originally, statements on the Middle East conflict were to be published at summit meetings in December and early February. But the states were unable to agree on a line. Countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary in particular consider it inappropriate to call on Israel to show great restraint after the massacre by the Islamist Hamas in Israel on October 7th. On the other side, there are countries like Spain that consider Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip to be contrary to international law and would like a stronger reaction from the EU. Germany, which was initially in the camp of Israel’s biggest supporters, now occupies a middle position.

The Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip was triggered by a massacre that terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups carried out in Israel on October 7th. On the Israeli side, more than 1,200 people were killed. Israel responded with massive air strikes and, from the end of October, also with a ground offensive. According to the Hamas-affiliated health authority, significantly more than 30,000 people died in the Gaza Strip as a result of the military operation. More than 74,000 others were injured.

US Secretary of State: “Ground offensive in Rafah would be a mistake”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Egyptian counterpart Samih Schukri are again warning of a planned Israeli military offensive in Rafah after talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo with representatives of various Arab states. “We have made it very clear that a ground offensive in Rafah would be a mistake and we cannot support that,” Blinken said at a joint news conference.

Shukri said there was agreement that any military action must be prevented in the southern Gaza city, where hundreds of thousands of people have sought refuge. He added that there was widespread agreement on the importance of a ceasefire and the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government is planning a ground offensive against the Islamist Hamas in the city on the border with Egypt. The project is internationally controversial because around 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge there due to the fierce fighting in the Gaza Strip. The US government and Egypt had also previously warned about this.

Blinken traveled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and arrived in Egypt on Thursday to discuss efforts for a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of hostages held by the Islamist Hamas. In Cairo he met with representatives from Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab States, and the Palestine Liberation Organization. He is expected in Israel on Friday.

Israel’s army: More terrorists killed in Shifa clinic operation

The Israeli army said it killed dozens more extremists in fighting at Shifa Hospital in the city of Gaza. “Over the past day, more than 50 terrorists were eliminated in exchanges of fire,” the military said. Since the operation began in the clinic a few days ago, more than 140 terrorists have been killed in the area and 600 others arrested. It was said that among those arrested were several high-ranking members of the Islamist Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israeli forces also found weapons caches.

According to the military, the operation will prevent harm to civilians, patients, medics and medical equipment. None of the information can yet be independently verified.

Israeli troops moved into the largest clinic in the Gaza Strip again on Monday night to, according to their own statements, take action against Hamas and its infrastructure. According to the army, two Israeli soldiers have been killed in the operation so far.

According to the Israeli army, fighting in the Gaza Strip is currently continuing elsewhere. For example, 20 people were killed in the center of the coastal area; the military also spoke of terrorists in this case.