EU foreign ministers meet on Gaza as Israel-Hamas conflict rages on

The European Union says it will redouble its efforts to end the rise in violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants.

EU foreign ministers are due to meet for a special summit on Tuesday and have expressed “extreme concern” over attacks on the media during the fighting.

Speaking on Monday, EU spokesperson Peter Stano voiced worry over the destruction of a Gaza building housing major international media over the weekend.

“The destruction of media offices is extremely worrying and the safety of journalists is essential,” Stano said.

“The media have to be able to work in an environment of freedom so that they can report independently on what is happening and this is all the more important in a conflict situation, where objective and unbiased reporting is crucial.”

Tuesday’s meeting is to seek “how best that EU can contribute to diffusing the tensions, stop the escalation and stop the ongoing violence,” Stano added.

At least 198 Palestinians, including 58 children, and eight Israelis have died during the eight-day escalation in the Middle East.

Since the start of the violence, the EU has been calling for restraint and has condemned attacks on civilian populations.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and European Council President Charles Michel have both demanded that civilians get the best possible protection.

Pro-Palestinian critics of EU policy insist the bloc has been far too lenient when it comes to imposing sanctions on Jerusalem.

Peter Stano said the issue had not yet surfaced ahead of Tuesday’s meeting and reiterated the EU’s recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself with a “proportional” use of violence.

“Let’s not jump ahead, let’s focus on trying to diffuse the situation, trying to solve the situation to normal diplomatic and political means,” Stano said.

EU policy towards the Middle East will require the unanimity of its 27 member states.

“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is of such a scale that there are calls all around the European for much more explicit action,” said John O’Brennan, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration at Maynooth University.

“[But the desire in the European Union to come to a common position is often made impossible because one or other member state will oppose it.”

“The big problem is a structural one in the European Council,” O’Brennan told Euronews.

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