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Israel accuses Spain, Belgium leaders of backing ‘terrorism’ after Gaza remarks

Israel accuses Spain, Belgium leaders of backing ‘terrorism’ after Gaza remarks

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Israel lashed out at the leaders of Spain and Belgium for their comments about the situation in the Gaza Strip, labelling the remarks “false statements” made “in support of terrorism.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “strongly condemns the comments” by Spanish Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez and Belgian leader Alexander De Croo during a visit Friday to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, the prime minister’s office said in a statement on X.

In Rafah, Sánchez and De Croo gave a joint press conference during which they both criticized Israel’s attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip and stressed the need for more humanitarian aid.

“The indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, including thousands of children, is completely unacceptable. Violence will only lead to more violence,” Sánchez said, according to a report by Spanish newspaper El País.

Sánchez also said Spain would be open to unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state even “if the European Union does not,” in a departure from his previous stance amid demands from his government ally the Sumar coalition.

Belgium’s De Croo also decried that “too many civilians have been killed” in the Gaza conflict. “We cannot accept a society is destroyed the way the society of Gaza is being destroyed,” he said.

“The military operation that Israel is conducting to stop the terrorist attacks must respect international humanitarian law,” De Croo added, according to a transcript of his remarks posted by his office.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen criticized the remarks by the two prime ministers as “false statements” made “in support of terrorism.” Cohen said he would summon the Spanish and Belgian ambassadors for admonishment.

“Their ambassadors will be invited to attend to be severely reprimanded,” Cohen wrote in a post on X on Friday.

Both European leaders have previously condemned the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and championed Israel’s right to defend itself. But they have also pushed for a humanitarian cease-fire to avoid further collateral damage and allow aid to flow into Gaza.

“I said that humanitarian aid wasn’t getting through because of problems on the Israeli side — that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact,” De Croo told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir after his Rafah press conference with Sánchez. “We’re going to invite the Israeli ambassador to Brussels for a coffee and we’ll repeat our position,” he said. De Croo did not comment on recognition of a Palestinian state.

The two European leaders “did not place total responsibility on Hamas for the crimes against humanity it perpetrated: massacring Israeli citizens and using Palestinians as human shields,” Netanyahu also wrote on X.

De Croo stuck by his comments in a post Saturday morning. “I stick to that point. No more civilian casualties,” he wrote on X.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it is important to keep the violence from spreading.

“The Palestinian people and the Arab neighbors need the reassurance that there will be no forced displacement but a viable perspective, with an independent Palestinian state — Gaza and West Bank reunited — and governed by a reformed Palestinian authority. And to this end, unacceptable violence by extremists in the West Bank has to stop,” von der Leyen said. “A peaceful co-existence is only possible with the two-state solution,” she said.

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