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Israel Hamas war: In a first, the European Parliament calls for a ‘permanent ceasefire’

Israel Hamas war: In a first, the European Parliament calls for a 'permanent ceasefire'

The resolution, which is purely symbolic and carries no legal weight, was approved with 312 votes in favour, 131 against and 72 abstentions in Strasbourg’s plenary chamber on Thursday after a compromise was made to appease centre-right lawmakers.

The ceasefire plea represents a significant shift in the Parliament’s previous position, agreed in October, which called for a humanitarian «pause» to step up the flow of aid reaching Gaza’s civilians. That vote in October had passed with 500 votes in favour, 21 against and 24 abstentions.

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Thursday’s sharpened call comes as the Gaza death toll tops 24,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, since the start of the Israeli offensive.

While the hemicycle’s left-leaning and centrist groups had openly backed the ceasefire call, members of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the chamber, had expressed reservations.

An amendment specifying that the ceasefire should be conditional on the release of all hostages held in Gaza and the «dismantling» of Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organisation in the EU, secured the backing of EPP lawmakers.

«Sustainable peace cannot exist as long as Hamas and other terrorist groups hijack the Palestinian cause and threaten the existence of Israel, the only democracy in the region,» Antonio López-Istúriz, an EPP lawmaker, said at the plenary.

Responding to the resolution, a representative of the Israeli mission to the EU told Euronews that it shows the Parliament «has an understanding of the cause of the war and the means to end it.»

«We are pleased that the resolution states clearly that a ceasefire is provided upon the unconditional release of all hostages and the dismantling of the terrorist organization Hamas,» the representative added.

EU lawmakers also condemned Israel’s «disproportionate» military response in Gaza and supported a European initiative to resume the so-called two-state solution, a long-term diplomatic solution which would secure statehood for the Palestinians.

Several versions of the text and dozens of amendments were filed in anticipation of the vote, reflecting the variety of viewpoints across the hemicycle.

In a sign of the difficult political wrangling that was needed to get the resolution over the line, Hilde Vautmans, a Belgian MEP for the liberal Renew Europe group, urged the hemicycle to find unity after hours of negotiations over the past few days.

She said ahead of the vote that the EU’s «international credibility» was at stake.

Bruno Lété, senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told Euronews that although purely symbolic, calls from EU and world leaders can have an effect.

«We’ve seen (…) some EU leaders, leaders in the Arab world, and even close allies of Israel such as the United States, calling on Israel to show more restraint in its actions in Gaza,» Lété explained. «I think partially it works. We’ve seen Israel now withdrawing partially from the Gaza Strip.»

But, Lété added, the condition of eradicating Hamas from the Gaza Strip will be difficult to fulfil, and that both warring parties would need to comply with a ceasefire agreement.

«We’ve already seen statements by Israeli officials saying that (…) we are satisfied with the level of eradication of the network in Gaza,» he said. «But we also see reports, showing that Hamas is actually returning to some of the areas that Israel supposedly had under control.»

«If Hamas doesn’t comply, it leaves little choice to Israel then to return to to its action. So both parties have to show a certain willingness to work towards a ceasefire,» he went on.

The European Council, which represents the bloc’s 27 member states, has not yet unanimously agreed to call for a ceasefire, despite pleas from countries such as Belgium, Ireland and Spain. So far, their official line is «humanitarian pauses and corridors,» a wording that implies a temporary, rather than continued, interruption of hostilities.

A European Council summit in December ended with no new conclusions on Gaza, despite seventeen EU member states, a majority of the bloc, backing a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire just days earlier.


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