An immediate cessation of conflict in Israel and the Gaza strip and the freeing of all hostages must be matched by restraint in Israel's response to ongoing attacks by terror group Hamas, and a recognition that that organization does not equate to the entire Palestinian population, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says.
Speaking after a European Council meeting on the situation in Israel, held via remote video link-up on Tuesday, the prime minister said: "There is no justification for terrorism. The attacks perpetrated by Hamas are some of the most brutal seen in Israel's history. As EU leaders, we call for an immediate cessation of violence and the release of all hostages."
However, this also, Kallas said, needed to be tempered by restraint in Israel's response to the Hamas attacks, which started on Shabbat, Saturday, October 7 with a mass rocket barrage and a breaching of the Gaza Strip fencing, and massacres of around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, across several towns, kibbutzim and also a music festival.
"Israel has every right to protect its citizens, but every action must comply with the norms of international law," the Estonian prime minister continued, adding that Hamas must not be equated with all ordinary Palestinians.
"It is also vital to ensure the access of humanitarian aid in order to stave off a humanitarian disaster," Kallas added, stating her approval of a European Commission to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza three-fold, to €75 million.
Kallas also stressed the importance of cooperation with countries in the region, in order to avoid a further escalation of the conflict and to promote longer-term stability.
A regular European Council face-to-face meeting is to be held in Brussels next week, when the situation in Israel and the Middle East will be on the table.
The EU heads of state and government had also issued a joint statement on the matter, last weekend.
Apparent divergence on matter between European Council president and European Commission president
The equivocation on the matter of Israel's response to the attacks and the "papering over" of differences across the bloc on the events of recent days is, ERR's Joosep Värk reported from Brussels (link in Estonian) worth noting in that it appears to be a criticism of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's apparently unilateral stance in support for Israel.
A press conference Tuesday evening highlighted the apparent differences between member states and their leaders, Värk reported.
Von der Leyen had visited Israel last Friday and pledged full solidarity with that country in the aftermath of the attacks, which have left an estimated 4,000-plus dead, on all sides.
However, in some quarters it was felt that the commission chief had gotten too close to apparently offering Israel a blank check in its responses, and in any case led to claims of a lack of balance on the episode.
President of the European Council Charles Michel meanwhile has mentioned international law repeatedly, however, saying Tuesday that a full-on blockade of the Gaza Strip, whence the attacks originated, was "not in line with international law," while the same applied to any strikes on civilian infrastructure, he said.
The comments came as a major explosion at a hospital in Gaza has led to hundreds of Palestinian deaths, with both Israeli and Palestinian authorities point the finger at each other with regard to culpability.
Von der Leyen for her part urged people to look at the European Council statement on Israel, adding she did not have enough information on the situation regarding the hospital, at that point in time, and so could not comment.
Von der Leyen also highlighted Monday night's fatal shooting of two Swedish football fans in Brussels, where a Euro 2024 qualifying match took place, as evidence of the need to deescalate the situation and to avoid a resurgence of terror attacks in Europe also.
The EU, like the U.S., considers Hamas a terrorist organization.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Government Office, 'Aktuaalne kaamera.'