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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
News article17 April 2024Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)2 min read

Joint Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Commissioner Janez Lenarčič on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and West Bank

Josep Borrell Fontelles, on the left, and Janez Lenarčič
Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vice-President of the European Commission, on the left, and Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis management
© European Union

High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, have issued the following statement:

"It is essential to avoid any further escalation in the Middle East, in particular following the attacks from Iran targeting Israel. At this crucial time, we yet again call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2728, demanding an urgent and unfettered expansion of the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza to prevent further escalation of this humanitarian crisis and the catastrophic, predictable and avoidable outcome for its population.

It is with the gravest dismay that we acknowledge the mounting evidence of unfolding famine in Gaza and the escalation of the humanitarian situation to a catastrophic level.

The European Commission took note of Israel's commitments to open new humanitarian aid access points in Gaza, including Ashdod port and the Erez crossing, and to increase aid deliveries from Jordan. However, this must be followed by meaningful actions as a matter of priority. We want to make it clear that not facilitating aid delivery at the required volumes is a death sentence for Palestinians in desperate need of assistance.

Famine threatens 1.1 million Palestinians, with 210,000 in North Gaza alone facing imminent starvation, as indicated by the latest reports.

Since 7 October, only a fraction of the minimum required food has entered Gaza, significantly contributing to the looming famine and acute food insecurity.

There is no shortage of aid supplies as they are abundant, waiting at the border with neighbouring countries and ready to be channelled into Gaza. It is imperative to let them reach those who need them.

We call on all parties to fulfil their obligations under international law, particularly emphasising Israel's responsibility as the occupying power to ensure that the basic needs of Palestinians in Gaza are met. 

This entails ensuring that the humanitarian community has unimpeded and safe access, first and foremost by land, to assist the population with adequate relief supplies.

These obligations are not discretionary but mandated by international humanitarian law, as set out by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

They are also reinforced by the International Court of Justice's provisional measures, resolutions from the United Nations Security Council, and European Council conclusions.

Moreover, the persistent instability within Gaza, including attacks on aid workers and medical personnel, contributes to the shrinking of the humanitarian space.

The loss of 7 staff members from World Central Kitchen is just one among many other appalling attacks on humanitarians which has claimed the lives of more than 200 aid workers.

All humanitarian and medical personnel, as well as hospitals and aid facilities, must be protected as per international humanitarian law.

We also urge Israel to address the rapidly escalating violence across the West Bank. We strongly condemn extremist settler violence and demand that all perpetrators be held accountable.

Immediate action is needed to de-escalate the situation and end the cycle of bloodshed and revenge.”