Ireland, Spain want EU to review Israel’s human rights compliance in Gaza

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 6:18 AM

MADRID (Reuters) – The prime ministers of Spain and Ireland asked the European Commission on Wednesday to urgently review whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations in Gaza.

At least 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 250 were taken hostage in a raid by Hamas militants on southern Israel on Oct. 7, prompting Israel to retaliate. At least 28,576 Palestinians have since been killed in Israeli strikes, the health ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday.

Palestinians jammed into their last refuge in Gaza voiced growing fear on Wednesday that Israel will soon launch a planned assault on the southern city of Rafah after truce talks in Cairo ended inconclusively.

“We are deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation in Israel and in Gaza… The expanded Israeli military operation in the Rafah area poses a grave and imminent threat that the international community must urgently confront,” the prime ministers said in a joint letter published on the Spanish government website.

“We also recall the horror of Oct. 7, and call for the release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire that can facilitate access for urgently needed humanitarian supplies.”

The EU Commission confirmed receipt of the letter.

An EU spokesperson said: “We do urge all sides when it comes to Israel to respect international law and we note that there must be respect, there must be accountability for violations of international law.”

Two weeks ago, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was in talks with other EU heads of governments to review the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the basis that Israel may be breaching the agreement’s human rights clause.

The 23-year-old agreement sets out a framework for free trade in goods, services and capital, based on “respect for human rights and democratic principles”.

So far only Spain and Ireland have made public their support for a review.

Varadkar said several EU states were also talking about a possible joint recognition of a Palestinian state.

Ireland has long been a champion of Palestinian rights, and ministers have repeatedly said the government is considering recognising a Palestinian state.

Spain has also repeatedly advocated the recognition of a Palestinian state.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro, editing by Aislinn Laing and Nick Macfie)