EU considers possible Rafah border mission, diplomats say

By Thomson Reuters May 24, 2024 | 10:31 AM

By Andrew Gray and John Irish

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Talks on deploying a European Union mission at the Rafah border crossing in Gaza are at a preliminary stage and the deployment will not happen without an end to the war between Israel and Hamas, a senior EU official said on Friday.

EU foreign ministers will hold their monthly meeting in Brussels on Monday, and discuss how to improve humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.

Two diplomats said the United States had suggested the EU revive its European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Rafah, which has not been operational since 2007, when the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas seized full control of Gaza.

The 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.

Rafah city is now fire in an Israeli military assault which judges at the top United Nations court said on Friday should immediately halt.

“Even if we now have people on the ground talking to the different parties and seeing how it could be done, we are in a very preliminary part of the story,” said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell could be given a mandate by the 27 members on Monday to come up with “some kind of operative conclusions that could allow the mission to deploy”.

He said a deployment could not happen “in the current circumstances, not in war circumstances”.

“We are talking about the future,” the official said.

Three EU diplomats said the discussion would be on the table but there was nothing concrete to discuss. One said the proposal was a “long shot.”

The mission would need unanimous approval from EU member states. Also, EUBAM is a civilian mission and personnel and equipment would need to be adapted, given the potentially dangerous nature of the operation.

Such a mission could go ahead only if Egypt and Israel were also in favour, diplomats said.

Two U.S. officials said Washington was reviewing options to secure the reopening of the Rafah crossing but no definitive plans had been developed yet.

Israel began its offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations, Editing by Timothy Heritage)