TEL AVIV: The Israeli foreign ministry on Friday summoned the ambassadors of Spain and Belgium for a “harsh rebuke” over comments by the two countries’ leaders about the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
Spain’s foreign ministry swiftly riposted by calling in the Israeli ambassador to explain her government’s “false and unacceptable” allegations against the Spanish prime minister.
Visiting the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the Israeli “operation needs to respect international humanitarian law” and denounced the destruction in the Gaza Strip as “unacceptable”.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez echoed his views, saying the “indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians” in the Palestinian territory was “completely unacceptable”.
Both leaders called for a permanent ceasefire in the war-battered territory.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen “gave the order to summon the ambassadors of these countries for a harsh rebuke”, his office said in a statement, accusing the two leaders of supporting “terrorism”.
In a separate statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “strongly” condemned the comments by the European leaders.
The statement released by his office blamed them for not placing “total responsibility on Hamas for the crimes against humanity it perpetrated: massacring Israeli citizens and using Palestinians as human shields”.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told public television he had called in the Israeli ambassador to lodge a formal protest against the Israeli government’s allegations.
The tit-for-tat moves came on the first day of a four-day truce between Israel and the Palestinian militants in Gaza following nearly seven weeks of relentless war.
Hamas broke through Gaza’s militarised border with Israel on October 7 to kill about 1,200 people and seize around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has vowed to “crush” Hamas in response and unleashed a withering military campaign that Gaza’s Hamas government says has killed nearly 15,000 people in the coastal territory.
On Friday, Hamas handed over to the Red Cross in Gaza a total of 24 hostages — 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and one Filipino — according to Qatar, which mediated the truce agreement.
In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners from its jails.__Pakistan Today