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EU summit calls for 'humanitarian corridors and pauses' in Gaza

Workers sort aid to be distributed to Palestinians, at a United Nations-run facility, in Khan Younis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders agreed at a summit on Thursday to call for the establishment of "humanitarian corridors and pauses" to get urgently needed aid into Gaza.

In a declaration at the summit in Brussels, the leaders of the Union's 27 nations expressed the "gravest concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza".

They called for "continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures including humanitarian corridors and pauses for humanitarian needs."

The summit was the leaders' first in-person meeting since the deadly Oct. 7 assault on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which prompted Israel to bombard and blockade Hamas-run Gaza.

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In their declaration, the leaders reiterated their previous condemnation "in the strongest possible terms" of the Hamas attack and emphasised Israel's right to defend itself "in line with international law and international humanitarian law".

They also repeated a call for Hamas to immediately release all hostages "without any precondition".

"The European Union will work closely with partners in the region to protect civilians, provide assistance and facilitate access to food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, ensuring that such assistance is not abused by terrorist organisations," the declaration also said.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Andrew Gray; editing by Diane Craft and Jonathan Oatis)