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Visits by EU Leaders to Israel Highlight Growing Divisions in Brussels Over War in Gaza

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Israeli President Isaac Herzog visiting Kibbutz Be’eri. Photo: Reuters/Bernd von Jutrczenka

Visits to Israel by European Union leaders during the last week have illuminated the growing divide in the bloc over the extent of its support for the Jewish state’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The leaders of Spain, Belgium, and Germany have all made the trip in recent days, with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier earning plaudits from his hosts for his remarks while in Israel — in marked contrast to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, who were accused by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen of giving “support to terrorism.”

Soon after arriving in Tel Aviv, Steinmeier traveled to Kibbutz Be’eri in the south of Israel, where at least 130 residents were murdered by Hamas terrorists during their onslaught on Oct. 7. During his tour of the shattered kibbutz on Monday, the German president pledged that Berlin would provide funds for its reconstruction, announcing the sum of seven million Euros to rebuild its art gallery.

“Be’eri and the many other kibbutzim deserve to be not only part of Israel’s history, but above all to be part of Israel’s future,” Steinmeier declared.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who accompanied Steinmeier, described the German leader and his wife, Elke, as “dear friends.”

“We have a dream, Mr. President, to rebuild this place as part of rebuilding the entire Kibbutz Be’eri and the entire region,” Herzog told his guest. “And we will rebuild and we will go back and we will wake up as a nation as a lion, to go back and regain and rebuild these places, so that they will flourish, and send a message of hope and peace to the entire world.”

In response, Steinmeier observed that “it’s not easy to find the words to describe what we heard from those who have the knowledge and who were witnessing the deeds, the murders, the killings, the rapes by Hamas here on Oct. 7.” He added that he hoped to “create conditions [so] that young people, craftsmen from Germany and from Israel, are meeting here to cooperate very closely in this rebuilding process.”

The visits last week by Sanchez and de Croo were shrouded in tension, however, with several observers speaking of a “diplomatic crisis” between Israel and the two EU member states.

Last Friday, the two premiers held a press conference at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt where they strongly condemned Israel’s military response.

De Croo complained that “too many civilians have been killed in this conflict,” adding: “We cannot accept a society is destroyed the way the society of Gaza is being destroyed.”

For his part, Sanchez decried what he called the “indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, including thousands of children.”

Said Sanchez: “I reiterate Israel’s right to defend itself, but within parameters and limitations imposed by international humanitarian law. And it is not the case.”

The Spanish leader also intimated that Spain would unilaterally recognize an independent Palestinian state if the EU as a whole failed to do so.

Acknowledging that such a move would be “better” if agreed on by all 27 member states, Sanchez then emphasized that “if this is not the case, Spain will make its own decisions.”

In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen summoned the Spanish and Belgian Ambassadors for a strong reprimand.

“We condemn the false claims of the prime ministers of Spain and Belgium who give support to terrorism,” Cohen said. “Israel is acting according to international law and fighting a murderous terrorist organization worse than ISIS that commits war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

EU leaders in Brussels have also been underlining their support for a resolution to the conflict that includes an independent Palestinian state.

“The Palestinian people and the Arab neighbors need the reassurance that there will be no forced displacement but a viable perspective, with an independent Palestinian state — Gaza and West Bank reunited — and governed by a reformed Palestinian Authority. And to this end, unacceptable violence by extremists in the West Bank has to stop,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said over the weekend, in a swipe at Israeli settlers in the West Bank. “A peaceful co-existence is only possible with the two-state solution.”

While the EU has backed Israel’s right to defend itself, its concern over the fate of Palestinian civilians in Gaza has grown in parallel with Israel’s escalated bombing campaign.

On Monday, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told foreign ministers from Mediterranean countries meeting in Barcelona that he wanted the present truce between Israel and Hamas to evolve into a permanent ceasefire.

“The pause should be extended to make it sustainable and long-lasting while working for a political solution,” Borrell said.

The veteran Spanish politician also echoed von der Leyen in expressing criticism of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.

“I’m appalled to learn that in the middle of a war, the Israeli government is poised to commit new funds to build more illegal settlements,” Borrell wrote in a post on X/Twitter. “This is not self-defense and will not make Israel safer. The settlements are a grave IHL (International Humanitarian Law) breach, and they are Israel’s greatest security liability.”

The post Visits by EU Leaders to Israel Highlight Growing Divisions in Brussels Over War in Gaza first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis

Drones are seen at a site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on April 20, 2023. Photo: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

i24 NewsA senior Israeli security official spoke to i24NEWS on Saturday on condition of the retaliatory strike carried out by the Israel Air Force against the Houthi jihadists in Yemen.

“This is an important operation which signals that there’s room for further escalation, and sends a very strong message to the entire Shiite axis.”

“We understood there is a high probability of counter attacks, but if we do not respond, the meaning is even worse. Israel has updated the US prior to the operation.”

The strike on Hodeida came after long-range Iranian-made drone hit a building in central Tel Aviv, killing one man and wounded several others.

The post Israeli Official: ‘Important Operation’ in Yemen Sends Strong Message to Shiite Axis first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida

Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi addresses followers via a video link at the al-Shaab Mosque, formerly al-Saleh Mosque, in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

i24 NewsThe Israeli military on Saturday confirmed striking a port in Yemen controlled by the Houthi jihadists, a day after the Iranian proxy group perpetrated a deadly drone attack on Tel Aviv.

“A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck military targets of the Houthi terrorist regime in the area of the Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen in response to the hundreds of attacks carried out against the State of Israel in recent months.”

After Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv, reports and footage out of Yemen of air strikes hitting Hodeida

— Video used in accordance with clause 27A of Israeli copyright law pic.twitter.com/d2uE16ZzQ1

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, issued a statement saying “The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear. The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”

“The blood of Israeli citizens has a price,” Gallant added. “This has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen, and in other places – if they will dare to attack us, the result will be identical.”

Gallant: ‘The fire currently burning in Hodeida is seen across the region and the significance is clear… The blood of Israeli citizens has a price, as has been made clear in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and in other places – if they dare attack us, the result will be identical.’ pic.twitter.com/DmHjwfHtPV

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) July 20, 2024

The post IDF Confirms Striking ‘Terrorist Houthi Regime’ in Yemen’s Hodeida first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves after attending a military parade to mark the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus in response to a short-lived Greek-inspired coup, in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus July 20, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Greek Cypriots mourned and Turkish Cypriots rejoiced on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of part of the island after a brief Greek inspired coup, with the chances of reconciliation as elusive as ever.

The ethnically split island is a persistent source of tension between Greece and Turkey, which are both partners in NATO but are at odds over numerous issues.

Their differences were laid bare on Saturday, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attending a celebratory military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkish forces launched an offensive that they call a “peace operation.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due later on Saturday to attend an event in the south of the Nicosia to commemorate what Greeks commonly refer to as the “barbaric Turkish invasion.” Air raid sirens sounded across the area at dawn.

Mitsotakis posted an image of a blood-stained map of Cyprus on his LinkedIn page with the words “Half a century since the national tragedy of Cyprus.”

There was jubilation in the north.

“The Cyprus Peace Operation saved Turkish Cypriots from cruelty and brought them to freedom,” Erdogan told crowds who gathered to watch the parade despite stifling midday heat, criticizing the south for having a “spoiled mentality” and seeing itself as the sole ruler of Cyprus.

Peace talks are stalled at two seemingly irreconcilable concepts – Greek Cypriots want reunification as a federation. Turkish Cypriots want a two-state settlement.

Erdogan left open a window to dialogue although he said a federal solution, advocated by Greek Cypriots and backed by most in the international community, was “not possible.”

“We are ready for negotiations, to meet, and to establish long-term peace and resolution in Cyprus,” he said.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart in violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and led to the dispatch of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The crisis left Greek Cypriots running the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union since 2004 with the potential to derail Turkey’s own decades-long aspirations of joining the bloc.

It also complicates any attempts to unlock energy potential in the eastern Mediterranean because of overlapping claims. The region has seen major discoveries of hydrocarbons in recent years.

REMEMBERING THE DEAD

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose office represents the Greek Cypriot community in the reunification dialogue, said the anniversary was a somber occasion for reflection and for remembering the dead.

“Our mission is liberation, reunification and solving the Cyprus problem,” he said. “If we really want to send a message on this tragic anniversary … it is to do anything possible to reunite Cyprus.”

Turkey, he said, continued to be responsible for violating human rights and international law over Cyprus.

Across the south, church services were held to remember the more than 3,000 people who died in the Turkish invasion.

“It was a betrayal of Cyprus and so many kids were lost. It wasn’t just my son, it was many,” said Loukas Alexandrou, 90, as he tended the grave of his son at a military cemetery.

In Turkey, state television focused on violence against Turkish Cypriots prior to the invasion, particularly on bloodshed in 1963-64 and in 1967.

Turkey’s invasion took more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Reunification talks collapsed in 2017 and have been at a stalemate since. Northern Cyprus is a breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, and its Turkish Cypriot leadership wants international recognition.

The post One Part of Cyprus Mourns, the Other Rejoices 50 Years After Split first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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