From calls for ‘restraint’ to worries about possible war crimes, political leaders and international courts in Europe weigh in on latest escalation.
Tensions in the Middle East have caused alarm in Europe, with leaders weighing in on the deadly conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Israeli army has launched hundreds of air strikes on the Gaza Strip since Monday, while Palestinians have launched more than 1,000 rockets.
The escalation has seen at least 53 Palestinians – including 14 children – and six Israelis die in a matter of days, and hundreds wounded, in the most intense flare-up since the seven-week 2014 Israeli war on Gaza.
Here are some reactions:
Russia: Putin urges de-escalation, minister calls on Israel to stop settlement activities
“Serious concern was expressed about the continuing clashes and the growing number of people killed and wounded,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Wednesday, after a call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said the world needs to give Israel a “strong” deterrent lesson.
It added that Putin had “called on the parties to de-escalate tensions and peacefully resolve the emerging issues”.
Meanwhile, Sergei Vershinin, a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, called on Israel to “immediately” stop all settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, RIA news agency reported.
Vershinin also said that Moscow called for the “status quo of Jerusalem’s sacred sites” to be respected, RIA reported.
United Kingdom: Johnson urges sides to ‘show restraint’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to “step back from the brink”, calling for both sides to “show restraint”.
“The UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and we want to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions,” he said on Twitter.
EU: ‘Very worried’
European Council President Charles Michel called on Israelis and Palestinians to halt fighting and avoid civilian casualties, after speaking with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
“Very worried by the recent upsurge of violence and indiscriminate targeting. Priority should be de-escalation and prevention of the loss of innocent civilian lives on both sides,” Michel said on Twitter Wednesday.
ICC: ‘Crimes’ may have been committed
The chief prosecutor of The Hague-based International Criminal Court voiced concern at the escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians and said “crimes” may have been committed.
“I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute [which founded the ICC],” Fatou Bensouda said on Twitter on Wednesday.
— Int’l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) May 12, 2021
Israeli aircraft have heavily damaged Gaza City buildings during the conflict. Israel said a nine-storey building it targeted on Wednesday housed Hamas intelligence offices and the group’s command responsible for planning attacks in the occupied West Bank; it also had residential apartments, medical companies and a dental clinic.
Israel faced heavy criticism over the bombing of residential buildings in Gaza during the 2014 war, one of several tactics that are now the subject of an investigation by the ICC into possible war crimes. Israel is not a member of the court and has rejected the probe.
Germany: Merkel says Israel has ‘right to self-defence’
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday said her government “condemns these incessant rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip against Israeli cities in the strongest terms”, saying they “could not be justified”.
“Israel has the right to self-defence against these attacks,” he added.
Seibert noted that both Arab and Jewish Israeli citizens had been killed in the barrage of rockets in recent days by Hamas and “allied extremist groups”.
“Their goal is to arbitrarily and indiscriminately kill people,” he said.
Italy: FM urges ‘greatest restraint’
The Italian foreign minister said he and his German counterpart want an immediate end to the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, after they held talks on Wednesday.
“We strongly request all the parties to immediately take measures aimed at de-escalation and to exercise the greatest restraint,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.