De Croo stressed that the Belgian government immediately condemned the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israeli territory and recognizes that Israel has the right to protect its people and prevent future attacks.
But “what is happening in Gaza today is no longer proportionate,” the prime minister said. “If one bombs an entire refugee camp with the intention of eliminating one terrorist, then I don’t think this is proportionate anymore,” he said. “Something like that is a bridge too far.”
De Croo pointed out that the psychological impact of the attacks on the Israeli population can hardly be overestimated. According to him, it is “completely logical” that “a solution” is sought for Hamas, the radical Palestinian organization “that poses a daily threat to the Israeli population, with Gaza as its starting point.” “The question is how the solution should be found,” said the Prime Minister.
At the same time, according to De Croo, the decades-long struggle of the Palestinians for self-determination should not be underestimated. Ultimately, a political dialogue should lead to a solution to the conflict, said the prime minister, who again called for a pause in the fighting and the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip. “Our country does not take sides. What we do choose is an end to violence and thousands of civilian victims.”
“Gaza not a safe place for terrorists”
Earlier in the day, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had denounced in her speech to EU ambassadors that Hamas is “using innocent Palestinians and hostages as human shields.” For her it is clear that Gaza cannot remain “a safe place for terrorists”. She pointed out that after the previous wars, Hamas could immediately rebuild its arsenal and prepare for the next conflict. “That should not happen again,” said Von der Leyen. Several ideas are discussed, “including an international peacekeeping force under a UN mandate.”
Hamas is on the European list of terrorist organizations. According to Von der Leyen, the fact that the organization can no longer control or govern the Gaza Strip should become one of the basic principles if negotiations on a two-state solution were to restart at some point. “There should be only one Palestinian Authority, and one Palestinian state,” she said.
At the same time, it is clear to Von der Leyen that Israeli security forces cannot remain in Gaza in the long term, that there should be no forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza and that the long-term blockade of Gaza must come to an end. “That policy didn’t work. Hamas has been able to continue building its arsenal while the economy has collapsed. 70 percent of young people in Gaza are without jobs. That can only lead to more radicalization.”
According to the Hamas government, more than 10,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. The dead include 4,104 children and 2,641 women. Another 25,408 people were injured, according to the ministry. The Gaza Strip has been heavily bombed by the Israeli army since Hamas carried out a large-scale surprise attack on Israel a month ago. On the Israeli side, 1,400 people were killed.