Middle East : Powerless in Face of Crisis, Eu Focuses on Humanitarian Aid
Unable to offer a political solution to broker an end to the crisis tearing the Middle East apart, the EU is focusing its efforts on humanitarian aid and the evacuation of European citizens from Lebanon. In the face of growing needs, the European Commission announced on 20 July that it was doubling the 5 million humanitarian aid package announced on 17 July and planning further decisions if necessary. We have received a great many requests from our partner organisations on the ground, said a Commission spokesperson, referring to a "serious humanitarian situation" which risks becoming catastrophic in the coming days. 500,000 people are currently on the roads in Lebanon as a result of the Israeli offensive, and this figure may shortly be doubled.
However, the delivery of aid remains problematic with Lebanon subject to a blockade by Israeli forces. The Commission is not yet in a position to indicate precisely how aid might be delivered with roads linking Lebanon to Syria being bombarded, but has indicated that air transport multiplies costs by five, consequently reducing actual aid. The European Commission Humanitarian Office ECHO's partner organisations, NGOs, the Red Cross and United Nations Agencies have logistic resources on the ground but their physical security is threatened, according to the EU executive.
In order to deal with this dramatic situation, European Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel has called for the opening of "humanitarian corridors", echoing French President Jacques Chirac who reminded the belligerents of their obligations regarding international humanitarian law in permitting rapid access to suffering populations.
CEASEFIRE CALLThe European Parliament has gone even further. The Presidents of political groups held an extraordinary meeting on 20 July and called in a joint declaration for "an immediate ceasefire in the region in order to permit the rapid deployment of international humanitarian aid".
These calls have thus far fallen on deaf ears, Israel indicating that its offensive against Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon may last for several weeks and that international diplomatic consultations have yielded nothing. …