EU ministers pound Israel over Beit Hanun [pg. 2]

Statement calls on IDF to cease operations that endanger Palestinian lives.

beit hanun 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
beit hanun 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union's foreign ministers slammed Israel on Monday for its recent military operation in Beit Hanun, deploring the action as "unacceptable" and saying that while Israel has a right to self defense, it "should not be disproportionate or in contradiction to international humanitarian law." "The Council expressed its deep concern at the escalating violence in Gaza and in the West Bank," the foreign ministers said, after holding their monthly meeting in Brussels. "The Council strongly deplores the Israeli military action in Gaza resulting in a growing number of civilian casualties, including women and children, and deplores the unacceptable military operation in Beit Hanun on November 8, 2006" The sharply worded statement "called on Israel to cease its military operations that endanger the Palestinian civilian population in the Palestinian Territory." The European foreign ministers also "strongly deplored" the firing of rockets on Israeli territory and called on the Palestinian leadership to bring an end to such acts. The Associated Press quoted European diplomats as saying that Ireland, Sweden and Spain lobbied in favor of the stern declaration that was issued, while Germany, the UK and the Czech Republic opposed publicly condemning Israel. One senior Israeli diplomatic official in Jerusalem said that the critical statement was expected following the killing of 21 civilians in Beit Hanun by an errant tank shell last week. He said that after Israel was roundly condemned by European countries following the incident, it was to be expected that the foreign ministers would issue a statement on the matter at their monthly meeting. The Foreign Ministry had no formal response to the statement. The EU statement also addressed the domestic political situation inside the Palestinian authority, urging the Palestinians to "work for national unity and to form a government with a platform reflecting the Quartet principles and allowing for early engagement. Such a government of national unity would also be a partner for the international community to support the re-launching of the peace process."