Estonia to send medical and humanitarian aid to the Middle East

On 2 November, the Estonian defence minister, Hanno Pevkur, spoke with his Israeli colleague Yoav Gallant about the situation in the Gaza Strip and the Estonian proposal to send medical and humanitarian aid to the region, in the sum of €240,000.

Pevkur extended condolences to his colleague for those killed in the terrorist attacks. 

“In light of the heinous terrorist attacks [by Hamas] on 7 October, Israel clearly has the right to defend itself and to ensure the safety of Israel’s inhabitants,” Pevkur told his Israeli colleague, adding that Estonia stands in full solidarity with Israel.

Pevkur told Gallant that the Estonian government had proposed sending medical supplies to Israel. In addition, the Estonian foreign ministry will allocate financial support to Palestinians for humanitarian relief.

Dead bodies of Israelis killed by Hamas’ terrorists in Israel on 7 October 2023. Screenshot from a news report by Channel 4 (UK).

Estonia will send aid to the region through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the World Food Programme and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.

Important for humanitarian aid to arrive to those in need

According to the Estonian foreign ministry, the UN has asked the international community to help the people in the region and said the region lacks drinking water, food and medical services.

“We’ve clearly said that both parties of the conflict should spare the lives of the civilians and that also applies to the people living in Gaza,” the Estonian foreign minister, Margus Tsahkna, said in a statement.

“It’s important that humanitarian aid will continue safely and without obstructions to arrive to the people who need it,” he added.

“Estonia strongly condemns the brutal and unsparing terror attacks by Hamas against Israel. We support Israel’s right to defend itself within the framework of international humanitarian law,” Tsahkna noted.

Children from families sheltering at an UNRWA school in Gaza eat bread distributed by the World Food Programme. Photo by WFP/Ali Jadallah.

According to Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, over 10,000 people have been killed in the strip in Israel’s war against the terrorist group, including over 4,000 children and 2,500 women.

Prime minister: Israel fully entitled to defend itself

The Estonian government discussed the conflict at a cabinet meeting on 2 November.

The country’s prime minister Kaja Kallas said that Estonia must support Israel while at the same time assisting civilians of Gaza. “Hamas is waging a ruthless campaign of terror with zero regard for human life, including the lives of Palestinians,” she said. “Israel is fully entitled to defend itself. But it must do so in a way that spares innocent lives and adheres to the norms of international law.”

Kallas added that radicalisation in any form is a threat to all, which is why there must be cooperation among countries in the region and with other partners to ensure that the conflict in the Middle East does not spread.

“Inciting a crisis in the region benefits no one other than those interested in drawing our attention away from other issues and undermining our unity. It is useful to those seeking to distract the free world from its support for Ukraine. It is all the more important then that we maintain a united front and wide-ranging support for the Ukrainians,” the prime minister said.

The Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas at a government meeting on 31 August 2023. Photo by Stenbock House.

Terrorist organisation

Hamas, officially the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a Sunni Islamist political and militant organisation, governing the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories since 2007.

On 7 October, thousands of Hamas’ militants broke through the Gaza–Israel barrier, attacking nearby Israeli communities and military bases. At least 1,400 Israelis were killed, including a massacre at a music festival that killed at least 260 people. Over 200 Israeli civilians, including women and children, were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip. The day was described by the US president, Joe Biden, as “the worst single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust”.

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in the southern Gaza Strip City of Rafah on 29 May 2014.

The invasion was followed by an Israeli counteroffensive and Israel formally declared war on Hamas a day later.

Many Western countries, including the US and the UK, have designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation, citing the militants’ usage of human shields; methods of hostage-taking of civilians; and history of violence against non-combatants, including massacres of civilian populations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli population centres.

The Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of land located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is bordered by Israel to the east and north and Egypt to the southwest. It is one of the two Palestinian territories, alongside the West Bank and has a population of two million.

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