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EU Leaders Gather with Ukraine Ammunition Production and Gaza Aid at the Top of Their Agenda

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders gathered Thursday to consider new ways to help boost arms and ammunition production for Ukraine and to discuss the war in Gaza amid deep concern about Israeli plans to launch a ground offensive in the city of Rafah.

Ukraine’s munition stocks are desperately low, and Russia has more and better-armed troops. There is also a growing awareness that the EU must provide for its own security, with election campaigning in the U.S. raising questions about Washington’s commitment to its allies.

Ahead of the summit in Brussels, EU Council President Charles Michel said the Europeans “face a pivotal moment. Urgency, intensity and unwavering determination are imperative.” New plans are on the table, notably to use the profits from frozen Russian assets to buy Ukraine arms and ammunition.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will join the leaders at the start of their two-day meeting, in part to encourage some member countries to resume funding for the U.N. Palestinian relief agency, the main provider of aid in Gaza.

The agency, known as UNRWA, is reeling from allegations that 12 of its 13,000 Gaza staff members participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel. The agency fired the employees, but more than a dozen countries suspended funding worth about $450 million, almost half its budget for 2024.

Early this month, the European Commission said it would pay 50 million euros ($54 million) to the agency after it agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists. Germany, notably, has not resumed funding.

The Israel-Hamas war has driven 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes, and U.N. officials say a quarter of the population is starving. The agency is the main supplier of food, water and shelter but is on the brink of financial collapse.

Concern is mounting about an imminent Israeli ground offensive against Hamas in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city near the border with Egypt. It’s a plan that has raised global alarm because of the potential for harm to the hundreds of thousands of civilians sheltering there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel can’t achieve its goal of “total victory” against Hamas without going into Rafah.

In a draft of their summit statement, seen by The Associated Press, the leaders are set to underline that such an operation “would worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation and prevent the urgently needed provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance.”

The leaders are also expected to give a greenlight to Bosnia to open membership talks once certain conditions are met.

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