The European Union warned Wednesday that violence could re-ignite in Gaza within “months” if Israel and Hamas fail to consolidate a fragile ceasefire through serious talks.
The EU ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, and John Gatt-Rutter, envoy to the West Bank and Gaza, spoke to journalists in Jerusalem just two weeks after a bloody and destructive conflict in the tiny coastal territory that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 people on the Israeli side.
“The destruction in Gaza has been devastating and we feel that if the situation goes unaddressed, there is still a considerable potential for violence,” Faaborg-Andersen warned, saying this could come “in a matter of months”.
The EU has pushed for indirect talks to resume between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza after the initial ceasefire was agreed on August 26.
“Hopefully it will be possible still to get the negotiations up and running very quickly,” he said.
Hamas’s exiled deputy leader said Wednesday that talks were to resume mid-September in Cairo.
Under terms of the truce, the parties agreed to resume Egyptian-brokered negotiations within a month to discuss key issues, including a Hamas demand for a port and an airport, a prisoner swap and Israel’s insistence on Gaza militants disarming.
Israel agreed as part of the initial ceasefire to immediately ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, and to expand the fishing zone off Gaza to six nautical miles.
But Hamas has already indicated it intends to rearm, and Israel has said it will reject the port and airport demand.
Gatt-Rutter said the provision of EU aid would depend on how much progress is made in any negotiations.
“A number of conditions need to be met before we start to think about identifying the kind of funds that can actually have a real impact on the reconstruction” of Gaza, huge residential swathes of which were destroyed by Israeli bombardment, he said.
“It’s essential that we use the next four weeks to actually come to… understandings… that would allow us as the European Union to work together with our partners in identifying the kind of funds that can make a difference.”
The remarks came a month ahead of a donor conference on Gaza, and after the UN and the Palestinian government called for $551 million (427 million euros) in aid to help hundreds of thousands of Gazans affected by the conflict’s aftermath.