EU’s Von der Leyen and parliament chief head to Israel

The presidents of the European Commission and Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen and Roberta Metsola, will visit Israel on Friday in the wake of Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on Saturday and the following escalations in violence.

A statement from the commission said the senior Brussels officials would “express solidarity with the victims of the Hamas terrorist attacks, and meet with Israeli leadership.”

Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 mainly civilian people and took about 150 hostages in a shock onslaught launched from the Palestinian territory of Gaza on Saturday.

Israel has responded by raining air and artillery strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza for six days, claiming more than 1,500 Palestinian lives.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel on Thursday and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will arrive on Friday to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The EU chiefs program of visits has not been finalized.

The European Union and its member states have expressed horror at Hamas’s killings and endorsed Israel’s right to defend itself within “the limits of international law.”

Some European officials have expressed concerns about Israel’s new siege of Gaza.

But von der Leyen and Metsola have been outspoken in their support for Israel, accusing Hamas of carrying out an anti-Semitic massacre of innocent civilians.

“October 7 is a day that will go down in global infamy,” Metsola said on Wednesday at a Brussels tribute ceremony to the Israeli dead.

“The world has witnessed Jews being murdered simply because they were Jewish. Again. In Israel,” she said.

Earlier, von der Leyen had told her commission colleagues: “These innocents were killed for one single reason. For being Jewish and living in the State of Israel.

“It is an ancient evil, which reminds us of the darkest past and shocks all of us to the core,” she said.

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