The high representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, has avoided directly accusing Israel of committing war crimes in its lethal offensive on the Gaza Strip – where more than 13,000 people have died – in an interview with the Arabic channel the Qatari television network Al Jazeera.
“Do you consider that what Israel is carrying out are war crimes?” the interviewer asks in Arabic, referring to the position of the 27. “I am not a lawyer, but there is an International Criminal Court that will take charge of an investigation and several countries have asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation.” Borrell adds that “what happened on the border between Gaza and Israel, with Hamas, has to be considered a war crime, but what happens in Gaza has to be analyzed according to International Law (…) I am not a lawyer, but the number of victims, especially among children, is very high.”
After that statement, the presenter asks Borrell: “Is the EU’s position that what Hamas carried out on October 7 are war crimes?” And the representative of European Foreign Policy responds bluntly: “yes, we consider it a war crime, because the civilians were clearly killed for no other reason, other than that they were there.”
“How can you be so clear when it comes to accusing Hamas of war crimes, but when I asked you about Israel you answered that you are not a lawyer?” the journalist asks, clearly annoyed, adding that for this reason many accuse the West from applying “double standards.” “No, we do not have double standards,” the high representative of European diplomacy responds calmly. Borrell adds that according to what he has personally seen, the massacres in Gaza “could be war crimes,” but he repeats that “it is the International Criminal Court that must decide if they are.”
“We try to apply the same principles and say the same things: civilians must be protected, hospitals have to be protected (…), schools have to be protected and this is always our message,” says Borrell to defend himself, and adds that “from the first moment” he has denounced the total blockade of Gaza and the deprivation of the most basic goods to its inhabitants.
Even so, during the interview the head of European diplomacy reiterates Israel’s “right to defend itself”, as several European leaders and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, have repeatedly stated. Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, Borrell has been one of the European leaders who has had a tougher position with Israel, compared to Von der Leyen’s less critical stance.
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