Imminent Humanitarian Catastrophe

Gaza: imminent Humanitarian catastrophe – ignored by von der Leyen. Her stance is met with heavy criticism within the EU. The War threatens to spread to other countries in the region. Iran consolidates anti-Israel forces.

BERLIN/TEL AVIV/TEHERAN (Own report) – EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s remarks during her trip to Israel last Friday comes under sharp criticism within the EU. Von der Leyen stressed Israel’s right to self-defense, but did not mention its obligation to comply with international law in operations in the Gaza Strip. This corresponds to Berlin’s official position, but torpedoes EU decisions. Her stance weighs heavily: Israel’s cutting Gaza off from water, energy and food is in violation of international law, as is the fact that countless civilians are falling victim to its bombardments. EU politicians warn that von der Leyen is once again exposing the Union to accusations of applying double standards in the Global South. This comes while the Gaza war risks spreading to other countries in the region. Iran is in the process of coordinating anti-Israel forces, for example in Lebanon. Israeli intelligence officials regret having once supported assassination and sabotage operations on Iranian territory: These acts had driven both countries into their current confrontation.

“Thousands will Die”

The Gaza Strip is facing an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. According to official data, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 2,670 people over the past eight days; more than 9,600 have been wounded. The death toll has thus already surpassed that of the 51-day Israeli bombardment of 2014.[1] Israel’s cutting Gaza off from water, electricity, fuel, food, and medicine is leading to disastrous conditions. Meanwhile, even hospitals overflowing with injured people are running out of fuel for their generators, threatening, for example, patients in intensive care units with imminent death. “The specter of death is hanging over Gaza. With no water, no power, no food and no medicine, thousands will die.” Martin Griffiths, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said in a social media warned on Sunday.[2] According to reports, since Sunday evening, Israel had partially resumed water supplies to southern Gaza. This is, however, not sufficient. More than half of the 2.3 million population has fled since Israel ordered the population in the north of the territory to leave their homes immediately. It has been reported that even escape routes are being bombed.

“Send Back to the Stone Age”

In addition, the risk of the war spreading to other countries and getting completely out of control remains immense. Already last week, there were several clashes between the Israeli armed forces and the Lebanese Hezbollah. According to Arab diplomats, Hezbollah has warned that it is prepared to open a second front in northern Israel if Israeli forces launch a ground assault in Gaza Strip. Israeli experts assume that Hezbollah’s powerful arsenal of missiles – perhaps 150.000 – will completely overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Thus, hundreds of these missiles, some of them quite accurate, could reach Israel’s major cities, including Tel Aviv.[3] Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warns that in this case his forces would “send Lebanon back to the Stone Age.”[4]

Support from Tehran

What role Iran plays in the context of the Hamas’ attack and massacre of well over a thousand Israeli civilians remains unclear. What is considered certain is that Tehran supported Hamas not only financially, but also provided technical help for manufacturing rockets and drones.[5] According to the NY Times, Iranian sources have confirmed that, to prepare the massacre, Hamas militias had undergone part of their preparation for the massacre, which lasted more than a year, in Lebanon and Syria. In Lebanon they practiced paragliding, which was used to break out of the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah, which cooperates closely with Iran, also trained Hamas members in urban guerrilla warfare. While in Syria, they were trained to raid Israeli communities and take civilians hostage.[6] It is unlikely that this could have been done without the knowledge of the relevant bodies in Tehran.

Iran’s Networks

There are also reports of Gaza Strip organizations and Hezbollah regular meetings with Esmail Qaani, Commander of the Quds Brigades – Iran’s elite units of its Revolutionary Guards. Back in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that in late March, Gen. Qaani held meetings in Syria with members of Palestinian militant groups, and soon thereafter with members of both Hamas, and Islamic Jihad of Palestine and Hezbollah to discuss a possible coordinated attack on Israel.[7] Since August meetings in this format have been held at least biweekly – always in Lebanon – with other leading Quds Brigades officers occasionally taking Qaani’s place.[8] Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian attended at least two of the meetings. However, it is unclear, whether these talks served to concretely plan the recent attack on Israel or if these were generally oriented toward closer cooperation in the future against Israel. When Amir-Abdollahian arrived for talks with Hezbollah in Beirut last Thursday evening, he warned that opening other fronts was a “real possibility.”[9] On the weekend, he met with the head of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar.

Led to the Confrontation

In relation to Iran’s activities, the NY Times recently quoted Israeli intelligence operatives saying that they “regretted” their support for Israeli targeted killings in Iran and operations of sabotage over the past few years to halt its nuclear program and prevent Tehran from expanding its alliances with Hamas and Hezbollah. These objectives were not achieved, they admit. Instead, those killings and sabotage operations put Iran and Israel on a path of direct confrontation, that now threatens to escalate fatally.[10]

Double Standards

In this situation, where the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip is reaching a fatal climax, as well as threatening an even wider ranging war in the Middle East, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is being sharply criticized within the EU. During her visit to Israel, on Friday, she expressed her habitual formula of the EU being “at Israel’s side” and supporting Israel’s “right to self-defense.”[11] This corresponds to Germany’s standpoint, as it was presented by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. However it only expresses half of the EU’s position, which also insists on Israel respecting international law in the course of its operation in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, von der Leyen upheld “an unacceptable bias that can only cause harm” protested the Chair of the Social Democrats in the EU Parliament Iratxe García last weekend.[12] Applying double standards is the Global South’s most frequent accusation of EU politicians.


[1] Helen Regan, Hadas Gold, Nadeen Ebrahim, Abeer Salman, Hamdi Alkhshali, Jessie Gretener, Sara Smart: Gaza conditions a ‘complete catastrophe,’ official warns as Israel prepares for offensive. 15.10.2023.

[2] Mai Khaled, Heba Saleh: ‘Why has the world abandoned us?’ Palestinians in Gaza plead for humanitarian relief. 15.10.2023.

[3], [4] Dion Nissenbaum, Ari Flanzraich: At Israel-Lebanon Border, Fears Grow of a Second Front. 12.10.2023.

[5] Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet: Hamas received weapons and training from Iran, officials say. 09.10.2023.

[6] Farnaz Fassihi, Ronen Bergman: Hamas Attack on Israel Brings New Scrutiny of Group’s Ties to Iran. 13.10.2023.

[7] Summer Said, Benoit Faucon: Iran Is Recruiting Militant Allies to Launch Attacks Against Israel. 14.04.2023.

[8] Summer Said, Benoit Faucon, Stephen Kalin: Iran Helped Plot Attack on Israel Over Several Weeks. 08.10.2023.

[9] Nicolas Camut: Opening of ‘other fronts’ possible in Israel-Hamas war, Iran warns. 13.10.2023.

[10] Farnaz Fassihi, Ronen Bergman: Hamas Attack on Israel Brings New Scrutiny of Group’s Ties to Iran. 13.10.2023.

[11] Präsidentin von der Leyen zu Terroranschlägen in Israel: Europa steht Israel zur Seite. 11.10.2023.

[12] Eddy Wax, Jacopo Barigazzi: Von der Leyen accused of ‘unacceptable bias’ toward Israel. 14.10.2023.