26th May 2024
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Spain and Ireland seek economic sanctions if Israel breaching obligations

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar have written to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressing deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

In a joint letter, Varadkar and Sánchez (pictured together in a file image from February 2023) called for an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations under the EU-Israel trade agreement.

They describe the expanded Israeli military operation in the Rafah area as posing a ‘grave and imminent threat’ that the international community must ‘urgently confront’.

They have asked the Commission to propose measures to be taken by the EU if it considers that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the EU-Israel trade agreement.

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

In the letter from Sánchez and Varadkar, published on Wednesday morning, the two leaders have asked for an ‘urgent review’ of whether Israel is complying with its obligations.

They wrote:

‘Against the background of the risk of an even greater humanitarian catastrophe posed by the imminent threat of Israeli military operations in Rafah, and given what has occurred, and continues to occur in Gaza since October 2023, including widespread concern about possible breaches of IHL and international human rights law by Israel, we ask that the Commission undertake an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its obligations, including under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which makes respect for human rights and democratic principles an essential element of the relationship; and if it considers that it is in breach, that it proposes appropriate measures to the Council to consider.’

‘We have repeatedly expressed our total condemnation of Hamas’ indiscriminate terrorist attacks of 7 October and call for the immediate and unconditional release of remaining hostages,’ they said.

They also said that an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is urgently needed to prevent ‘irreversible harm’ to the people in Gaza. You can click here to read the full letter in English.

Varadkar and Sánchez also referred to the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice which requires Israel to take ‘immediate and effective measures’ to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

They also said that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) must be allowed to continue its work in saving lives and ‘addressing the catastrophic humanitarian’ situation in Gaza. ALSO READ: Spain to increase its funding for UNRWA as other donors suspend aid.

The leaders said the EU must continue to support UNWRA as ‘there is no pathway to achieving the urgent massive and sustained scale-up in humanitarian assistance without UNWRA playing a central role’.

The letter comes a day after Varadkar said Israel has become ‘blinded by rage’ and is not even listening to the advice of its close ally the United States any more.

The Taoiseach was answering questions in the Irish Parliament about the number of Palestinians who have been forced to crowd into Rafah, which was targeted in a recent Israeli military operation.

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.

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez: ‘I have serious doubts Israel is complying with international law’.

ALSO READ: ‘A question of being humane’ – Sánchez stands by Gaza comments that angered Israel.

ALSO READ: Sánchez calls for international peace conference and to establish ‘viable Palestinian state’.

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