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6 May, 2024 17:44

EU member working on Israel sanctions

The country’s prime minister and deputy prime minister have both promised to punish Israel over the death toll in Gaza
EU member working on Israel sanctions

The Belgian government is “working on further sanctions against Israel,” Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter said on Monday. Brussels has already sanctioned Israeli settlers, and plans to cut trade ties with the Jewish state over the war in Gaza.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), De Sutter said that Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah – a city in southern Gaza where around 1.4 million Palestinian refugees have sought shelter – would “lead to [a] massacre.” 

Israel ordered the evacuation of Rafah on Monday, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warning that it would strike the city with “extreme force” shortly thereafter. 

“I met with Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Riad Malki. We discussed how Belgium can help to end the atrocities,” De Sutter said in a follow-up post, adding that “Belgium is working on further sanctions against Israel.”

Belgium and the EU’s 26 other member states imposed sanctions last month on four individuals and two organizations involved in the construction of illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The people and entities sanctioned are responsible for property theft and “serious human rights abuses against Palestinians,” according to the European Council.

Belgium currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council. Speaking to Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that he would use the presidency to push the European Commission to review its trade agreement with Israel, and if necessary, gather a group of like-minded European leaders willing to cut ties with the country.

“Can we now simply continue with Israel as a trading partner? I do not think so,” he told the newspaper.

De Croo rejected calls from the Belgian opposition to sanction Israel two months ago. “But in the meantime there have been 35,000 deaths, including 10,000 children,” he explained. “In ten years’ time people are going to say, ‘You watched and took no action.”

The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, with 32% of Israel’s imports originating from the EU and 25% of its exports sent to the bloc, according to data from 2022. Belgium is Israel’s fourth biggest trading partner within the EU, largely due to the diamond trade. 

Türkiye announced on Thursday that it would suspend all trade with Israel due to the latter’s “aggression against Palestine in violation of international law and human rights.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of Israel’s fiercest critics since the war in Gaza began, comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler and accusing him of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking roughly 250 hostages back to Gaza. The death toll from Israel’s retaliation in the enclave is approaching 35,000 as of Monday, according to the Palestinian health authorities.






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