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EU leaders hold extraordinary meeting on the Israel-Hamas war as differences appeared in their messaging

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The 27 EU leaders met on Tuesday (17 October) in Brussels for an extraordinary Council on the Israel-Hamas war. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen showed a more stronger pro-Israel position than EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

In a statement issued Sunday by European Union Council President Charles Michel, the 27 leaders condemned “in the strongest possible terms Hamas and its brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks across Israel”.

But the statement also addressed the situation in Gaza, stressing the importance of “the provision of urgent humanitarian aid” and the need to help citizens most in need in the Gaza Strip.

A number of EU citizens have been taken hostage in the conflict. And other EU citizens are in the Gaza Strip.

Despite this statement, ension has appeared between the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell .

Last week, the European Copmmissioner responsible for neighborhood policy Oliver Varhelyi announced that all EU aid tot he Palestinians would be suspended following the Hamas massacre committed by Hamas against Israelis in southern Israel. But hours later it was clarified that the aid in fact would not be halted but put under review by the EU. In the meantime, some EU member states, including Germany and Austria, suspended their aid.

Another clear difference appeared between the statements issued since the beginning of the Hamas attacks between Borrell and von der Leyen. The latest showed a more stronger pro-Israel position than Borrell who appeared more distant and critical of Israel.

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Von der Leyen together with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola visited Israel only fews days after the attacks to show solidarity with the Israeli population, to pay tribute to the more 1,400 victims of Hamas. They visited the Kfar Aza kibbutz Von der Leyen, a German center-right politician, visited the Kfar Aza kibbutz where Hamas terrorists slaughtered scores of civilians  and expressed unreserved solidarity with Israel on behalf of the European Union, saying clearly that Israel has the right to defend itself while other EU leaders added that such right needs to be applied "with respect to international law."

Both von der Leyen and Metsola were criticized for failing to publicly call for restraint by Israel as it launched air attacks on Gaza and prepare to enter the territory to eliminate Hamas military infrastructures.

In contrast, the EU foreign affairs chief, while condemning the Hamas attacks,  stressed the need for restraint and called for food, water and medicines to be allowed into Gaza.

The EU Commission announced Saturday that it will increase its humanitarian funding to Gaza from €25 million to €75m. The announcement was made following a phone call Saturday between von der Leyen and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has been one of the leading international figures calling for restraint from Israel in response to the Hamas attack.

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