Irish premier Leo Varadkar and his Spanish counterpart have written to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressing deep concern at the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

In a joint letter, Mr Varadkar and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations under the EU-Israel trade agreement.

They describe the expanded Israeli military operation in the Rafah area as posing a “grave and imminent threat” that the international community must “urgently confront”.

They have asked the Commission to propose measures to be taken by the EU if it considers that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the EU-Israel trade agreement.

In the letter, published on Wednesday morning, the two leaders have asked for an “urgent review” of whether Israel is complying with its obligations.

They said: “Against the background of the risk of an even greater humanitarian catastrophe posed by the imminent threat of Israeli military operations in Rafah, and given what has occurred, and continues to occur in Gaza since October 2023, including widespread concern about possible breaches of IHL and international human rights law by Israel, we ask that the Commission undertake an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its obligations, including under the EU/Israel Association Agreement, which makes respect for human rights and democratic principles an essential element of the relationship; and if it considers that it is in breach, that it proposes appropriate measures to the Council to consider.”

They also said that an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is urgently needed to prevent “irreversible harm” to the people in Gaza.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Sanchez also referred to the ruling of the International Court of Justice which requires Israel to take “immediate and effective measures” to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain joined the call for an urgent review of whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations (Leon Neal/PA)

They also said that the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) must be allowed to continue its work in saving lives and “addressing the catastrophic humanitarian” situation in Gaza.

The pair said the EU must continue to support UNWRA as “there is no pathway to achieving the urgent massive and sustained scale-up in humanitarian assistance without UNWRA playing a central role”.

The letter comes a day after Mr Varadkar said Israel has become “blinded by rage” and is not even listening to the advice of its close ally the United States any more.

The Taoiseach was answering questions in the Irish parliament about the number of Palestinians who have been forced to crowd into Rafah, which was targeted in a recent Israeli military operation.