EU invites Israel for talks to discuss Gaza offensive

EU invites Israel for talks to discuss Gaza offensive
EU member states last week agreed to ask Israel's foreign minister to a special gathering under an accord between the two sides that links rights to trade ties.
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Josep Borrell is the European Union's foreign policy chief [AFP/Getty-file photo]

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday he had formally invited Israel's top diplomat to a meeting to discuss ties amid the Gaza war.

The EU's 27 member states last week agreed to ask Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, to a special gathering under an accord between the two sides that links rights to trade ties.

Borrell said at the time that he wanted to press Israel on the catastrophic situation in Gaza, its respect for human rights, and a ruling by the UN's top court to stop an offensive in Rafah.

The ball is now in Israel's court to accept the invitation. EU officials concede that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to drag out any response as it continues to wage its war on Gaza.

EU countries – which include staunch allies of Israel and firm supporters of the Palestinians – have struggled for a unified position on the war.

Spain and Ireland – which last week recognised a Palestinian state – have called on the EU to review the association agreement on trade over Israel's Gaza offensive.

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Israel's war on the strip has killed at least 36,586 people, according to the enclave's health ministry.

A Hamas-led 7 October attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

There were also 251 people taken captive, 120 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the Israeli army says are dead.

Israel's military pounded central Gaza with heavy air strikes on Wednesday as US, Qatari, and Egyptian mediators planned to resume talks on a truce and hostage release deal.

The EU has backed a three-phase plan laid out by US President Joe Biden that would halt the war for six weeks while captives are exchanged and aid is stepped up.