Israel’s Gaza evacuation order will change EU minds, Palestinian envoy says
Ambassador refuses to condemn Hamas outright for killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians.
BRUSSELS — Israel’s order to more than 1 million Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to immediately evacuate their homes will turn Europeans against the war, the Palestinian Authority’s top diplomat in Brussels predicted on Friday.
On Friday, the Israeli army ordered Palestinians to evacuate Gaza City — a move condemned by the United Nations as foreshadowing a humanitarian tragedy.
“It’s going to — and I hope so — change the minds of several EU leaders and the minds of all the people in all the European member states,” said Abdalrahim Alfarra, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg.
“It’s really a catastrophe that no one could have imagined,” he said by telephone. “It’s not acceptable and that’s why I demand the European Union to very quickly intervene to stop the forced transfers from northern Gaza to the south,” he said over the phone.
Ursula von der Leyen and Roberta Metsola, respectively the presidents of the European executive and its parliament, both travelled to Israel Friday to show solidarity with the country hit by attacks by Hamas militants on Saturday.
But it comes as the EU’s unequivocal support for Israel appears to be shifting, with more leaders warning Israel — which has commenced a total siege of the more than 2 million inhabitants of Gaza — to act within international law. The EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, on a trip to China Friday, reiterated his call for Israel to respect international law and described Israel’s evacuation order as “unrealistic”; French President Emmanuel Macron stressed late on Thursday that while Israel has the right to defend itself, it is also bound by the duty of “preserving civilian groups.”
“The top leadership of the European Union must immediately intervene so Israel stops the forced transfers,” Alfarra said, describing Israel’s actions as a “war crime” and a “massacre” because no part of Gaza is safe from Israeli bombardments.
Asked about the over 100 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, the senior representative of the Palestinian Authority underlined that the PA is not in control of the Gaza Strip, saying that their survival is a “pretext” for Israel to “empty” Gaza of its inhabitants.
In a first interview with POLITICO Thursday, he refused to specifically condemn Hamas’s attacks against civilians, beyond saying the events were “serious” and that he condemns all attacks against civilians “everywhere in the world.”
“I do not condemn Hamas, and do you know why? You have to always differentiate between people who resist for the freedom of its people to have an independent Palestinian state,” he said at the Palestinian Mission to the EU, where portraits of former and current leaders of the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas hang on the walls.
“Is there a journalist in Europe who has asked an Israeli ambassador to condemn the massacres by Israel against the Palestinian people?” he asked, adding: “Never, unfortunately.”
He dismissed a mass EU gathering in support of Israel in front of the European Parliament Wednesday as “the height of double standards,” while some EU countries ban pro-Palestinian protests.
The top diplomat also said he was never consulted on an EU commissioner’s apparently unilateral move to cut all EU aid to Palestine — a move later relegated to a review. He insisted that no EU aid goes to Hamas.
Alfarra hails from Gaza and his own daughter is trapped there. He said he trembles when he receives any phone call from Gaza, fearing the worst. “My daughter was supposed to be in Brussels today,” he said.
Elisa Braün and Suzanne Lynch contributed reporting.