The European Union has jointly condemned Hamas for using hospitals and civilians as "human shields" in the Israel-Hamas war while EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell urged Israel "for maximum restraint in targeting in order to avoid human casualties."
In a show of unity, all 27 members of the bloc issued a statement that "the EU condemns the use of hospitals and civilians as human shields by Hamas."
At a meeting of the bloc's foreign affairs ministers, Borrell presented the statement he issued after weeks of often contrasting statements on how the group should address the Israel-Hamas war.
"You know how difficult it has been the last times, after the vote in the United Nations, where countries were voted in different ways, to present a completely united approach," Borrell said.
Only hours after EU leaders professed unity over the Israel-Hamas war on October 28, the member states were split in a vote on a General Assembly resolution calling for humanitarian truces in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
Now, the EU nations joined in "calls for immediate pauses in hostilities and the establishment of humanitarian corridors, including through increased capacity at border crossings and through a dedicated maritime route, so that humanitarian aid can safely reach the population of Gaza."
The EU group reiterated its "call on Hamas for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. It is crucial that the International Committee of the Red Cross is granted access to the hostages," it said.
Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins said that "Hamas is unfortunately using civilian infrastructure and civilians as shields against the Israel Defense Forces. So, the situation (is) absolutely not black and white."
The EU considers Hamas a terrorist organization. In response to the statement, Hamas called on Borrell to reverse his "outrageous and inhuman comments" and accused him of distorting facts. Hamas says Borrell's comments are a "cover-up" for Israel to "commit more crimes against children and defenseless civilians."
Israel says that Hamas militants use Gaza civilians as human shields by establishing command centers under hospitals as is the case, it claims, at Gaza City's largest Shifa Hospital.
The EU nations stopped short of calling for a cease-fire.
Commenting on the issue, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she understands "the impetus for a cease-fire," but those who are seeking one must answer some questions such as, "how can the demand for a cease-fire, acutely, and now in this terrible situation guarantee that Israel's security is assured? What happens with the 200 hostages, and who negotiates it in a situation where negotiations barely seem possible?"