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UN tells EU to end ‘double standards’ on Ukraine and Gaza

The bloc’s leaders have called for an “immediate” humanitarian pause in Israel’s military operation

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged EU leaders to show the same concern for civilians in Gaza as in Ukraine. While the EU has funnelled tens of billions of euros into repelling Russian forces in Ukraine, it is only now preparing to formally ask Israel not to invade a refugee camp in Gaza.

“The basic principle of international humanitarian law is the protection of civilians. We must stick to principles in Ukraine as in Gaza without double standards,” Guterres told reporters ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

Ireland’s outgoing prime minister, Leo Varadkar, touched on the same double standards in his own comments to journalists. 

“The response to the appalling crisis in Palestine has not been Europe’s finest hour, quite frankly,” Varadkar said. “I think it has been undermining particularly our efforts to defend Ukraine because so many countries in the global south – also known as most of the world – interpret Europe’s actions in relation to Ukraine versus Palestine as double standards. I think they have a point.”

The EU responded to the Ukraine conflict by imposing 13 packages of economic sanctions on Moscow and funnelling more than €80 billion ($86.8 billion) in military, economic, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, not counting bilateral aid sent by individual member states. By contrast, the European Commission will spend just €150 million on aid to Gaza this year.

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Israeli offensive in Rafah would lead to ‘massacres’, doctors warn UN

While EU leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of targeting civilians in Ukraine, the civilian death toll in Gaza has long ago eclipsed the casualty count from Ukraine. Nearly 32,000 Palestinians – most of them women and children – have been killed in five months of fighting in Gaza, three times as many civilians as have died in two years of conflict in Ukraine, according to figures from the UN and the Gaza Health Ministry. 

With Israel maintaining a near-total siege on Gaza, famine is “imminent” in the enclave, a UN food security watchdog warned in a report this week. The report states that 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are currently facing “catastrophic hunger,” and that two out of every 10,000 people there will die daily from starvation, malnutrition, and disease if not helped immediately.

EU leaders adopted a joint statement at this week’s summit calling for “an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza. The statement urges “the Israeli government to refrain from a ground operation in Rafah,” explaining that “such an operation would have devastating humanitarian consequences and must be avoided.”

Located in southern Gaza, Rafah is home to more than a million displaced Palestinians from other parts of the territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he is “determined” to send troops into Rafah, despite international condemnation.


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