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European leaders pledge support for Israel, condemn Hamas and halt Palestinian aid

Israel's flag is projected onto the front of 10 Downing Street in a show of support on Sunday in London.
Justin Palmer
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Getty Images
Israel's flag is projected onto the front of 10 Downing Street in a show of support on Sunday in London.

LONDON — Landmark buildings around Europe, including 10 Downing Street in London and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, have lit up with the Israeli flag — and some cities have seen pro-Palestinian protests — as governments across the continent convened emergency meetings to respond to the conflictin Israel and Gaza.

Concern is also growing after reports that citizens from the United Kingdom, France and possibly other European countries were among the dead or missing.

Here are some of the ways some European countries have responded since the fighting began early Saturday.

Steadfast support

Britain's prime minister, Rishi Sunak, records a video message about the situation in Israel on Sunday in Aylesbury, England.
Suzanne Plunkett / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Britain's prime minister, Rishi Sunak, records a video message about the situation in Israel on Sunday in Aylesbury, England.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said his government is "poised" to provide diplomatic, intelligence or security support, if requested, to Israel. The U.K. is one of Israel's "strongest allies," he said. The government has not ruled out evacuating its citizens from affected areas, saying keeping Britons safe is its "utmost priority." Sunak held a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

The deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden, said Monday evening that his government was reviewing its aid to the Palestinian territories.

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A spokesperson from the UK Foreign Office issued a statement saying it does not comment on individual consular cases. "The safety of all British nationals continues to be our utmost priority and we urge everyone to continue to follow our travel advice which is updated regularly."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany "stands steadfastly by Israel's side."

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the attacks and said he had held talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanon's caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati.

The European Union's executive arm announced it was suspending all aid to the Palestinian territories.

"As the biggest donor of the Palestinians, the European Commission is putting its full development aid, worth a total of EUR 691m [$728 million] under review," Oliver Varhelyi, EU commissioner for neighbor and enlargement, said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"The scale of terror and brutality against #Israel and its people is a turning point. There can be no business as usual," he said.

The EU will hold an extraordinary meetingof its foreign ministers Tuesday in Muscat, Oman, to discuss the situation.

European citizens dead and missing

The BBC reported more than 10 British citizens are feared dead or missing in Israel, citing an unnamed official U.K. source. Among those killed in Israel was 20-year-old British man, Nathanel Young, who was serving in the Israel Defense Forces, according to several British news reports.

The U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

The French government said two of its citizens were killed in Israel.

On Monday, French lawmaker Meyer Habib tweeted that at least eight French nationals were missing, dead or taken hostage after Hamas' attack on Israel began Saturday. He said he spoke to a man who confirmed that his son, a 26-year-old French man who was living in Israel, was taken hostage by Hamas.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it assumes German citizens are among those kidnapped by Hamas, according to Le Monde.

In France and Germany, security has been ramped up at Jewish institutions, synagoguesand Jewish schools. London's Metropolitan Police has also stepped up patrols after videos emerged of celebrations in the city of the attacks against Israel.

Protesters hold flares during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London, Monday, two days after Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel.
Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP
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AP
Protesters hold flares during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London, Monday, two days after Hamas fighters launched an unprecedented, multi-front attack on Israel.

Public support for Palestinian rights and sympathy for the Palestinian cause, according tosurveys, has been stronger in some European countries than it is in the United States. One poll published in July by the company YouGov found that, of people in European countries with opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there was a greater tendency to side with the Palestinians. The exception was Germany, where respondents were almost evenly split on the issue.

This week, there have been pro-Palestinian protests in London, Berlin andsome U.S. cities.

Scottish leader's relatives in Gaza

Scotland's leader, First Minister Humza Yousaf, is one of those who has found his family affected by the conflict. He told journalists in Scotland on Monday that his parents-in-law were currently trapped in Gaza. The parents of Yousaf's wife, Nadia El-Nakla, who is of Palestinian heritage, had been visiting relatives in Gaza when they found themselves trapped as Israel began its attacks on the territory this weekend. The Scottish first minister said his parents-in-law had been told by Israeli authorities to leave because "Gaza will effectively be obliterated" but that nobody could guarantee them safe passage out.

"I'm in a situation where, frankly, night by night, day by day, we don't know whether or not my mother-in-law and father-in-law — who have nothing to do, as most Gazans don't, with Hamas or with any terror attack — whether they will make it through the night or not," Yousaf said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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