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EU’s Borrell suggests US cut military aid to Israel


FILE PHOTO: European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell speaks to the media on the street, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 6, 2024. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Andrew Gray

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday made a thinly veiled call on the United States to cut arms supplies to Israel due to high civilian casualties in its war in Gaza.

Borrell recalled that U.S. President Joe Biden said last week that Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack had been “over the top” and U.S. and other Western officials had repeatedly said too many civilians were being killed in Gaza.

“Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed,” Borrell told reporters after a meeting of EU development aid ministers in Brussels.

“If the international community believes that this is a slaughter, that too many people are being killed, maybe we have to think about the provision of arms,” he added.

Borrell also noted that a Dutch court on Monday ordered the government of the Netherlands to block all exports of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns they were being used in violations of international law in the Gaza war.

Borrell said it was contradictory for countries to repeatedly declare that Israel was killing too many civilians in Gaza but do nothing concrete to prevent the killing.

Israel has insisted it takes extensive measures to protect civilians but is forced to conduct military operations in civilian areas as Hamas, the Palestinian militant group responsible for the Oct. 7 attack, operates there.

The United States is Israel’s most important foreign arms provider. It gives Israel $3.8 billion in military aid annually, ranging from fighter jets to powerful bombs. Washington has so far not heeded any pleas to cut such aid.

In his remarks in Brussels, Borrell also sharply criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he was not listening to pleas to do more to protect civilians.

“Everybody goes to Tel Aviv, begging ‘please don’t do that, protect civilians, don’t kill so many’. How many is too many? What is the standard?” Borrell said, appearing angry and emotional. “Netanyahu doesn’t listen (to) anyone.”

Borrell said Netanyahu had been calling for an evacuation of Palestinian civilians from the Rafah area of Gaza – the last part of the enclave where people have found refuge – but the veteran Spanish politician questioned how this could be done.

“They are going to evacuate? Where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people?” he said.

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