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EU calls for Israel-Gaza cease-fire

May 18, 2021

The EU has called for a ceasefire in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. Meanwhile, Gaza officials say more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and Israel pledges to continue fighting.

Three rockets launched from the southern Gaza Strip toward Israel
Israel says Hamas and other Palestinian groups have fired about 3,350 rockets from GazaImage: Said Khatib/AFP
  • EU calls for ceasefire
  • France seeks UN Security Council resolution
  • Hamas officals tells New York Times that it has requested a ceasefire
  • Palestinian UN envoy makes humanitarian plea

This article was last updated at 00:35 UTC

Thank you for following developments with us, these live updates are now closed. You can read more on the story in our article on how a cease-fire remains elusive.

US condemns Erdogan's 'antisemitic' remarks

The US State Department has criticized what it called 'antisemitic' comments by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. 

"The United States strongly condemns President Erdogan's recent antisemitic comments regarding the Jewish people and finds them reprehensible," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Turkey remains one of the few Muslim-majority nations with relations with Israel. But Erdogan accused Israel of "terrorism" against the Palestinians, saying it was "in their nature."

"They are murderers, to the point that they kill children who are five or six years old. They only are satisfied by sucking their blood," he said.

Erdogan also hit out at US President Joe Biden for his support to Israel, saying the US leader has "bloody hands."


Timeline: How the Israel-Hamas conflict expanded

The now nine-day battle between the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Israel is showing no signs of abating and is growing in scope. DW sets out how the conflict intensified.

France pushes for Security Council resolution on Gaza conflict

A statement released by French President Emmanuel Macron called for a resolution at the UN Security Council to stop the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

It came after talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan's King Abdullah.

"Overall, the 3 countries agreed on 3 simple elements: the shooting must stop, the time has come for a cease-fire, the UN Security Council must take up the subject and we have also called for a vote on a resolution on the subject," the statement read.

The three countries also plan to launch a humanitarian initiative for the civilian population of Gaza in conjunction with the United Nations, the Elysee said.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday held its fourth session since the fighting began. However, it ended after less than an hour with no statement issued. 

DW fact check: Children used as propaganda

Fathers cradling their babies, women mourning over the dead bodies of children — as the situation in Gaza and Israel escalates, more and more images emerge. But not all of them are real. DW analyzes some viral posts.

Palestinian envoy to UN issues humanitarian plea

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, has called on world powers to contribute more humanitarian aid to help Gaza after over a week of Israeli bombing.

"I asked the UN to issue an emergency call for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip immediately," Mansour told a press conference at UN headquarters in New York.

"We cannot continue to live under this aggressive apartheid regime. This occupation has to end. We need to have the independence of our state with east Jerusalem as its capital where we can live with dignity and freedom."

Hamas says cease-fire sought

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk told the New York Times that the Palestinian militant group has been seeking a cease-fire in Gaza.

However, he says, “Israel demanded that Hamas unilaterally hold its fire first for 2-3 hours before Israel decides if it will do the same.”

Abu Marzouk says Hamas will agree to a cease-fire that is "simultaneous and mutual."

The Israel Hayom newspaper also reported that Hamas had requested an immediate cessation of hostilites.

Lebanon state news agency reports of tensions at border

Israeli troops fired tear gas and smoke grenades at stone-throwing protesters on the Lebanese border on Tuesday, wounding five people, the state news agency said.

Tension escalated in the Adyisseh area, where protesters carrying Hezbollah and Palestinian flags in solidarity with people in the Gaza Strip started to climb the concrete border fence.

They then threw stones on the Israeli side of the border and at an Israeli tank, the National News Agency (NNA) said.

In retaliation, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and smoke grenades, wounding five people, while others fainted from smoke inhalation, the NNA reported. 

The incident prompted the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the area to go on alert. 

EU foreign policy chief joins calls for cease-fire

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday called for an immediate cease-fire to stop the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

"The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a ceasefire," Borrell said after a video conference of EU foreign ministers.

Hungary refused to support the statement released by the 27-member bloc.

"I have a general problem with these European statements on Israel... These are usually very much one-sided, and these statements do not help, especially not under current circumstances, when the tension is so high," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told AFP in an interview.

Merkel and Jordan's King call for 'swift cease-fire'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the current situation with Jordan's King Abdullah II, her office said. "Both agreed that initiatives for a swift cease-fire should be supported in order to create the conditions for the resumption of political negotiations," he spokesman said in a statement.

Earlier German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for an end to violence, ahead of a video call with the EU's 27 foreign ministers.

"An end to the violence is the first priority," Maas said in a video statement. "Today, I will lobby for a better humanitarian supply in Gaza." He pledged €40 million ($48.86 million) for humanitarian aid in Gaza.

UNRWA: Israel damaging humanitarian facilities

Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip have damaged humanitarian facilities, according to Director of the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in Gaza (UNRWA), Matthias Schmale.

Schmale told DW that United Nations facilities had been damaged by Israeli air strikes, despite it recently sharing coordinates with the Israeli forces.

"We have assurances from both sides that UN installations are not targets and the Israelis know the coordinates of all our installations," he said. "Unfortunately, this time around, some of the strikes are just too close to our installations." 

He said other local health facilities had also been affected by the strikes.

"We know that two primary health care centers run by the authorities have been destroyed. We know an MSF clinic has been destroyed. We know that the central lab for COVID-19 testing is no longer functional as a result of strikes. And we know that the central ambulance unit of the Palestine Red Crescent has been badly affected. So it it has a serious impact on our collective ability to provide humanitarian service."

He said 48,000 displaced people were seeking shelter in UNRWA schools, while others were staying with relatives away from border areas.

"Clearly, the population, not least based on the experiences in 2014, still see UN installations painted in blue and with a blue UN flag on top of it as relatively more safe and secure than their own homes."

Labor strikes in Israel and West Bank

Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank have been holding labor strikes to protest against Israel's air raids on Gaza.

The strike is also directed against actions taken by Israeli security forces against Muslim worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, as well as forced evictions in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The strike was called by leaders of the Palestinian community within Israel, which makes up some 20% of the population. It has also been embraced by the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. Ministries and schools in the territory were closed.

Turkish president criticizes US and Austria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday slammed Austria and US President Joe Biden for their response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

He said that Biden was "writing history with bloody hands" because of his support for Israel. His comments, made in a nationally televised address on Monday, represented one of his strongest attacks against Biden since he took office in January.

Erdogan also criticized Austria for flying the flag of Israel last week. "I condemn Austria for hanging the Israeli terror state's flag," Erdogan said. "The Austrian state seems to be trying to make Muslims pay the price for [its role] in the Holocaust."

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the move to fly the flag a mark of solidarity with Israel.

France, Egypt and Jordan get involved

French President Emmanuel Macron is holding talks with Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan's King Abdullah II, seeking a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The Elysee Palace said el-Sissi was currently in Paris to attend summits on Africa while Abdullah was due to join by video conference.

"The trilateral meeting aims above all to work for a rapid cease-fire and prevent the conflict from extending," the presidency said.

UN says 52,000 displaced in Gaza

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) says more than than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

About 47,000 of the displaced people have sought shelter in 58 UN-run schools in Gaza said OHCA spokesman Jens Laerke.

Laerke said 132 buildings had been destroyed and 316 had severely damaged. These included six hospitals and nine primary healthcare centers, he said.

Meanwhile, the UN has welcomed an Israeli decision to open the Kerem Shalom crossing to allow aid into Gaza, and called for another entrance to be opened for humanitarian workers.

European ministers weigh options

European Union foreign ministers are meeting to discuss the 27-nation bloc's political efforts to end the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

The EU has been united in its calls for a cease-fire and the need for a political solution to end the latest conflict. It's thought that any measures are likely to be diplomatic.

Conflict could force US to 'reconsider' priorities

Dan Arbell, scholar-in-residence at the Center for Israeli Studies at American University, has told DW that the US was "caught off guard," by the recent escalation in violence between Israel and militants in Gaza.

"They were not planning to deal with it (Israel-Palestine) on a daily basis," he said. "They wanted to focus on conflict management rather than conflict resolution and restore a relationship with the Palestinians and establish a dialogue." 

Grace Wermenbol, non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, said US President Joe Biden has, in terms of foreign policy, largely focused on Iran and Afghanistan.

"In contrast to his predecessor, (Biden) has chosen not to get directly involved in the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire," she told DW. "With the latest escalation, however, Biden and his foreign policy team might be forced to reconsider their immediate international priorities."

Israel says it struck 65 'targets' 

The Israeli army says it fired more than 100 munitions at 65 militant targets overnight in an operation involving more than 60 fighter jets.

It said the targets included rocket launchers, a group of fighters and the homes of Hamas commanders that were allegedly being used for military purposes. 

The AP news agency reported that strikes in downtown Gaza City also toppled the six-story Kahil building, which houses libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University. There were no reports of casualties from the nighttime attacks.

Israel's military said that Palestinian militants had fired 90 rockets, 20 of which fell short in Gaza.

Palestinians call for general strike

More protests were expected on Tuesday as Palestinians had called for a general strike.

The protests are set to take place in Arab towns within Israel and Palestinian towns in the West Bank, with posts on social media urging solidarity "from the sea to the river."

The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party announced its support for the protests. 

Infographic: West Bank map.
Protests were expected Tuesday in the West Bank

EU foreign ministers to hold special meeting 

Foreign ministers of the European Union member states are set to meet on Tuesday to discuss how the bloc can help end the surge in violence between the Israeli military and Hamas militants. 

The meeting is to seek "how best that EU can contribute to diffusing the tensions, stop the escalation and stop the ongoing violence,'' EU spokesman Peter Stano said.

"There is an urgent need to address the root causes of the conflict and to find a political pathway, which allows for a return to meaningful negotiations towards a two-state solution based on the internationally agreed parameters," Stano said.

How realistic is a two-state solution?

The idea of a two-state solution is almost as old as the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In light of the current hostilities, it also seems increasingly unrealistic. DW looks at the history of trying to find a two-state solution.

UNIFIL says situation in southern Lebanon has calmed

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said security was intensified in southern Lebanon after rockets were fired into and from Israel. 

"UNIFIL in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces is enhancing security control in the area and has intensified patrols to prevent any further incidents that endanger the safety of the local population and the security of southern Lebanon," the UN peacekeeping mission said on Twitter. 

"The situation in the area is now calm," UNIFIL added. 

How Israel's Iron Dome works

Israel has been using its Iron Dome missile defense system for a decade — but never so much as in the past few days. DW takes a look at how it works.

Israel's Iron Dome aerial defence system is launched to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip
Israel's Iron Dome aerial defence system is launched to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza StripImage: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

US expresses 'support' for cease-fire 

Joe Biden backed a cease-fire during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

However, Biden stopped short of openly demanding a truce.

The White House said that Biden "expressed his support for a cease-fire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end."

The call came following reports of the US blocking a United Nations Security Council statement calling for de-escalation in the Israel-Gaza violence. 

Israeli ambassador talks to DW

Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel's ambassador to Germany, told DW that Hamas initiated the current deadly exchange between Israel and Gaza, and called on the organization to stop firing rockets. He said Israel would not stop airstrikes until Hamas stops rocket fire into Israel.

Jeremy Issacharoff speaks to DW

Israel retaliates after shots fired from Lebanon: IDF

The Israeli military said six rockets were fired from Lebanon towards Israel, but fell short of crossing the border. 

"In response, our artillery forces fired toward the sources of the launches," the IDF said on Twitter. 

The AFP news agency cited a Lebanese security source as saying that three shells were fired from Lebanon into Israel.    

"Three Grad-type rockets were fired from the Shebaa Farms area," near the Israeli border, the military source told AFP. 

There were no immediate reports of casualties. 

 Air raid sirens sounded in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon as residents were instructed to prepare bomb shelters.

Gaza: Death toll reaches 212

Gaza's Health Ministry said 212 Palestinians were killed, including 61 children, and 1,400 were injured in Israeli attacks since the beginning of the fresh round of violence.

The ministry's spokesman said that, according to examinations by medical crews, "it is clear that the Israeli occupation targets defenseless civilians in their homes and neighborhoods using excessive force." 

Gaza officials say Israeli strike hit their sole COVID testing lab

The only coronavirus laboratory in Gaza can no longer carry out testing as the clinic housing it was hit by an Israeli airstrike Monday, health officials said. 

The Israeli attacks "threaten to undermine the efforts of the health ministry in the face of the COVID pandemic," said Gaza's Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra.

The Qatari Red Crescent said an Israeli airstrike also damaged its offices in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it was due to Israeli forces "targeting a civilian building." 

"Targeting these buildings, which are not used for military purposes, is a flagrant violation of the principles of international humanitarian law," the Palestinian Red Crescent said. 

Netanyahu says fighting will continue 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) struck at Hamas' naval unit and "are continuing to strike at underground targets."

Israel "will continue to operate as long as needed to restore quiet and security to all Israelis," Netanyahu said. 

Israel has recorded 10 deaths, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from Gaza toward Israel.

What is Hamas and who supports it?

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, repeatedly attacking Israel. It has a number of foreign allies. A majority of Western governments have classed it as a terrorist group. So where does it get its money and supplies? DW has an overview.

Norway says it will raise crisis on Security Council agenda 

Norway, China and Tunisia will push the Israel-Gaza crisis on the UN Security Council agenda for another round of talks on Tuesday, the Norwegian delegation to the Security Council said. 

"The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Innocent civilians continue being killed [and] injured. We repeat: Stop the fire. End hostilities now," Norway's delegation said on Twitter. 

At a Security Council session on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for an immediate end to the "utterly appalling" fighting.

Erdogan says Biden has 'bloody hands' 

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed US President Joe Biden for backing Israel in the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

"You are writing history with your bloody hands," Erdogan said in remarks addressed to Biden. 

"Today we saw Biden's signature on weapons sales to Israel," the Turkish president said in reference to media reports of a new arms deal approved by the Biden administration.

"Palestinian territories are awash with persecution, suffering and blood, like many other territories that lost the peace with the end of the Ottomans. And you are supporting that," Erdogan added. 

UN: 42,000 Palestinians seeking shelter in schools

The recent escalation in hostilities in the Gaza Strip has internally displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said. 

More than 2,500 people have been made homeless as their houses were demolished due to Israeli strikes, UNRWA said in an earlier statement. 

The UN agency said on Twitter 42,000 Palestinians were seeking shelter in 50 UNRWA schools.

Israel-Gaza violence enters second week

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the crisis in Israel and Gaza, where fighting has entered a second week. Tensions continue to rise despite increased international calls for a deescalation.

fb/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)