De Croo: 'What is happening in Gaza today is no longer proportionate'
Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo condemned the situation in Gaza on Monday at a gathering of diplomats in Brussels. "What is happening in Gaza today is no longer proportionate," he said.
De Croo stressed that the Belgian government had immediately denounced the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli territory and recognised Israel's right to protect its population and prevent future attacks. However, he said, "if one bombs an entire refugee camp with the intention of eliminating one terrorist, I don't think this is proportionate anymore. Something like that is a bridge too far."
He added that the psychological impact of the attacks on the Israeli population could not be overestimated, adding that it was "perfectly logical" to "seek a solution" to Hamas, the radical Palestinian organisation "which poses a daily threat to the Israeli population, with Gaza as its base". "The question is in what way the solution should be found," he said.
"Our country is not taking sides. What we do choose is an end to violence and thousands of civilian casualties"
The Palestinians' decades-long struggle for self-determination should not be underestimated either, he said, stressing that political dialogue will have to lead to the solution to the conflict and calling for a pause in fighting and the release of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip. "Our country is not taking sides. What we do choose is an end to violence and thousands of civilian casualties."
Earlier in the day, during her address to EU ambassadors, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen accused Hamas of "using innocent Palestinians and hostages as human shields". She said it was clear that Gaza "must not remain a safe haven for terrorists".
She pointed out that after the previous wars, Hamas was able to immediately rebuild its arsenal and prepare for the next conflict. "That must not happen again," she said. Several ideas are being discussed, "including an international peacekeeping force under a UN mandate".
'Blockade must end'
Hamas is on the European list of terror organisations. According to Von der Leyen, one of the basic principles for possible negotiations on a two-state solution would be that Hamas can no longer control or rule the Gaza Strip. "There should only be one Palestinian Authority and one Palestinian state," she said.
Nevertheless, she said it was clear that Israeli security forces could not remain in Gaza on a long-term basis, there should be no forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza and the long-term blockade of Gaza must end. "That policy has not worked," she said. "Hamas has been able to continue building its arsenal while the economy has collapsed. 70 per cent of young people in Gaza are without jobs. That can only lead to more radicalisation."
According to the Hamas government, the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed more than 10,000 people. The dead include 4,104 children and 2,641 women. Another 25,408 people have been injured, according to the ministry. The Gaza Strip has been heavily bombed by the Israeli army since Hamas launched a large-scale surprise attack on Israel a month ago that killed 1,400 Israeli people.
Prime minister Alexander De Croo talks to the press after a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE