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EU chief Josep Borrell in sharp rebuke to Israeli PM Netanyahu amid Rafah massacre

The European Union aims to agree in principle on Monday to press ahead with an EU border mission at Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Speaking before a monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers, Borrell also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of using false claims of antisemitism against the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his own political ends.

The bloc is considering reviving its European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Rafah, which has not been operational since 2007, when the Palestinian group Hamas seized full control of Gaza.

The Rafah crossing is the main entry point for aid from Egypt, and has been closed since Israeli forces took control of it from the Gazan side nearly three weeks ago.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are facing the threat of famine as a result of Israel’s indiscriminate war and siege of the territory.

“Today we can have a political decision and then it needs to be implemented technically,” Borrell told reporters, adding it would require approval from Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians.

The civilian mission would need unanimous approval from the 27 EU member states. It was not immediately clear what the role of a revived EUBAM would be, and it would have to be adapted to reflect the potentially dangerous nature of such an operation.

Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said it would take some time for any decision on the mission to be put in place. Diplomats have said the mission was unlikely to be in place before hostilities in Rafah stopped.

“Israel has yet to consolidate a ‘day-after’ plan for Gaza, so there is no formal position on this initiative,” said an Israeli official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of war planning.

“But it is worth remembering that the (Israeli) defence minister, in his January 4 proposal, outlined a multinational force that would be one of the four prongs for managing Gaza once Hamas is defeated. An EU mission in Rafah could potentially dovetail with that,” the official added.

Swipe at Netanyahu

Two international courts, both based in the Hague, have reached decisions opposed by Israel in recent weeks.

The prosecutor of the ICC said he was seeking the arrest of Netanyahu and Israel’s defence minister along with Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes, while the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which hears disputes between states, ordered Israel to halt its offensive on Rafah.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed over 36,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured more than 81,000.

Israel has denounced the ICC as a “rogue court” and called on allies to reject it.

It also claims its assault on Rafah does not need to be halted in line with the ICJ ruling because it does not pose an unlawful threat to civilians, even though dozens of civilians have been killed there in Israeli attacks.

Israeli air strikes killed at least 35 Palestinians and wounded dozens in the Rafah area on Monday and Borrell accused Israel of pushing ahead with military action in southern Gaza despite the ICJ ruling.

Borrell took a swipe at Netanyahu over his labelling of ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan decision’s to seek arrest warrants against him and his defence minister as evidence of “new antisemitism”.

Borrell described the comment as intimidation, saying accusations of antisemitism were made every time that anyone “does something that Netanyahu doesn’t like”. 

Source: The new Arab