(JTA) — Israel reprimanded Spain and Belgium’s ambassadors in Tel Aviv after their country’s prime ministers called Israel’s actions in Gaza “unacceptable” on Friday.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo made their comments at a press conference at the Rafah border crossing in Egypt, which has been the corridor that Hamas’ Israeli hostages have been delivered through and that humanitarian aid has arrived in since Oct. 7. Their press conference took place just a short time before the first set of Israeli hostages were due to make their way through the crossing as part of a ceasefire deal.
Sánchez, who is facing pressure from left-wing parties as he has struggled since July elections to form a government coalition, said Israel’s “indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, including thousands of children, is completely unacceptable.” He also said Spain is open to recognizing a Palestinian state, even “if the European Union does not.”
De Croo, who has been a member of the conservative Open VLD party, said Israel’s offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 has not followed “international humanitarian law.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the two, saying in a statement that they “did not place total responsibility on Hamas for the crimes against humanity it perpetrated: massacring Israeli citizens and using Palestinians as human shields.” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said their statements were in “support of terrorism.”
Both Sánchez and De Croo had condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, but in the nearly two months since have focused more on calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing war in Gaza. Israel views a ceasefire as unacceptable because it would leave Hamas in power, though it agreed to a short truce to allow for the release of more than 50 hostages, mostly women and children.
After Spain’s ambassador was summoned for a reprimand, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares summoned Israel’s ambassador to Spain, AFP reported.
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Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow
i24 News – Russia has extended invitations to various Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, for discussions on the Israel-Hamas conflict and broader issues in the Middle East.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced the initiative on Friday, highlighting Moscow’s desire to engage with all major players in the region amid heightened tensions.
The invitation included a dozen Palestinian groups and is slated for “inter-Palestinian” talks scheduled to commence on February 29.
Bogdanov, serving as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy for the Middle East, emphasized the inclusivity of the invitation, stating, “We invited all Palestinian representatives — all political forces that have their positions in different countries, including Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.”
Among the invitees are Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, alongside representatives of Fatah and the broader Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The invitation comes at a critical juncture as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, drawing international attention and concern. Russia’s proactive stance in convening discussions reflects its growing criticism of Israel and its Western allies, underscoring Moscow’s efforts to assert its influence in the region.
The post Russia Extends Invitation to Palestinian Factions for Talks in Moscow first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose
i24 News – Hamas drops its “delusional” demands, productive hostage talks could begin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, stressing Israel would not agree to the terror group’s current demands.
WATCH: PM Netanyahu delivers a statement after Hamas suspended negotiations pic.twitter.com/nxISPb4JUm
— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 17, 2024
“I insist that Hamas should abandon its delusional demands – and when it does, we will be able to move forward,” Netanyahu said in a statement live on TV.
“Those who want us to desist from the Rafah operation,” the leader said in an apparent reference to the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden, “are telling us we should lose. We won’t be dictated to.”
The post Netanyahu: Those Who Want us to Desist from Rafah Op Are Telling Us to Lose first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry
i24 News – Iran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.
“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.
Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone
— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024
The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”
The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.
— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024
The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.