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Israel summons Belgium and Spain’s ambassador for a reprimand following their statements on Gaza war

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (left) and Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo attend a press conference at Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip, Egypt, 24 November 2023. EFE-EPA/STR

Israel accuses Spain, Belgium leaders of backing ‘terrorism’. Terrorist group Hamas praised ”clear and bold positions” expressed by De Croo and his Spanish counterpart. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen described the “congratulations” as “shameful and scandalous”, and added: “we will not forget those who truly stand by us”. The Israeli government on Friday summoned the ambassadors of Belgium and Spain following remarks made by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on the war between Israel and Hamas, during their joint visit to Israel.

The two prime ministers whose countries appear to be in the EU the least supportive of Israel, criticized the Jewish state for the suffering of Palestinian civilians under Israel’s military operations against Hamas in Gaza.

While in Israel, where he visited together with De Croo kibbutz Bee’ri, the scene of atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, Sanchez also called for the European Union to recognize of a Palestinian state, saying Spain might do so on its own.

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He said it would be better if the EU did it together, “but if this is not the case … Spain will take their own decisions.”

Sanchez was speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt with De Croo.

Spain currently holds the EU’s rotational presidency and Belgium will take over in January.

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During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sanchez declared: ‘’I reiterate Israel’s right to defend itself but it must do so within the parameters and limits imposed by international humanitarian law and this is not the case.’’

“The indiscriminate killing of civilians, including thousands of boys and girls, are completely unacceptable,’’ he added.

In his remarks to the press, De Croo did not mention recognition of a Palestinian state, but said, “first things first, let’s stop the violence. Let’s liberate the hostages. Let’s get the aid inside … the first priority is help people who are suffering.” ‘’‘Israel needs to do much more to avoid civilian casualties,’’ he said.

De Croo stressed the need and hope for a permanent cease-fire, adding that this “needs to be built together. And it can only be built together if both parties understand that the solution to this conflict is never going to be violence. A solution to this conflict is that people sit around the table.”

“A military operation needs to respect international humanitarian law. The killing of civilians needs to stop now. Way too many people have died. The destruction of Gaza is unacceptable,” he said.

“We cannot accept that a society is being destroyed the way it is being destroyed,” he added.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen instructed the countries’ ambassadors to be summoned for a sharp reprimand. “We condemn the false claims of the Prime Ministers of Spain and Belgium who give support to terrorism,” he said in a statement.

“Israel is acting according to international law and fighting a murderous terrorist organization worse than Isis that commits war crimes and crimes against humanity,’’ the Israeli minister added.

He slammed both Prime Ministers “for not placing full responsibility for the crimes against humanity committed by Hamas, who massacred our citizens and used the Palestinians as human shields.”

The conversation between Netanyahu with Sanchez and De Croo was described as ‘’tense’’ by the Belgian press. .

Since Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza, which followed the horrible Hamas massacre in southern Israel which left 1200 people dead, relations with Belgium and Spain have soured.

The Belgian parliament has refused a request to screen a video of the Hamas massacre and several government ministers have made anti-Israeli statements, including a call to boycott Israeli products. Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter from the Flemish Green party, declared: ”It  is time for sanctions against Israel. The bombing is inhumane,” she wrote on the X social media.  “While war crimes are being committed in Gaza, Israel ignores the international demand for a cease-fire,” she added.

In Spain too, a  minister has called on the international community to sanction Israel, which she accused of a “planned genocide” of Palestinians in Gaza.

Ione Belarra, the Spanish minister for social rights and leader of the extreme-left Podemos party, also condemned world leaders for  a “double standard”, saying while human rights abuses in Ukraine have been decried, there is a “deafening silence” on the victims of Israeli bombardment.

ACOM, a pro-Israeli group in Spain, reported the minister to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for “incitement to hatred against Israelis that live in Spain”.

Hamas praised Sanchez and his Belgian counterpart  for their “clear and bold stance” on the ongoing Gaza war. The terrorist group said it “appreciates their clear and bold positions”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen described the “congratulations” as “shameful and scandalous”, and added: “We3 will not forget those who truly stand by us.”

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