Putin stresses 'catastrophic humanitarian situation' in Gaza

In call, Netanyahu flogs Putin over Gaza war stance and blossoming Iran ties

Premier holds 50-minute conversation with Russian leader, ‘expresses annoyance’ over Russian backing for a ceasefire at the UN but asks for help to pressure the Red Cross

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, September 12, 2019. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, September 12, 2019. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin for nearly an hour Sunday, criticizing Moscow’s alliance with Iran and expressing dissatisfaction with its stance on Israel’s war with Hamas.

Netanyahu stepped out of his government’s weekly cabinet meeting for the approximately 50-minute phone call, his office said, the first talks between the leaders since mid-October amid rapidly cooling ties between Jerusalem and Moscow.

Since war broke out on October 7, Russia has regularly criticized Israel, including in the UN Security Council, while at the same time hosting leaders of the Hamas terror group in a development widely seen as an extension of its increasingly friendly ties with Iran.

“The prime minister expressed his annoyance over anti-Israel stances by Russian representatives at the United Nations and other fora,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

It added that Netanyahu “expressed sharp criticism over the dangerous cooperation between Russia and Iran.”

Moscow hosted a Hamas delegation in late October for meetings at which Kremlin officials expressed support for their positions, further straining already frayed ties between Israel and Russia, which has regularly criticized Israel’s Gaza offensive.

From left to right: Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Putin’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov, and Hamas head of international relations Mousa Abu Marzouk, during a trilateral meeting in Moscow on October 26, 2023. (Hamas Telegram channel)

Russia has also fostered a closer relationship with Iran, which has become a key ally as Moscow seeks support for its invasion of Ukraine. Israel had offered only relatively modest support for Kyiv in a bid to safeguard its relationship with Russia, but the once-close allies have nonetheless grown far apart.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive to topple Hamas after the terror group’s devastating October 7 onslaught, in which Hamas terrorists invaded Israeli border communities and slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, while kidnapping 240 more.

Putin has repeatedly criticized the military campaign, called for aid to Gaza and urged a ceasefire with a UN Security Council resolution not mentioning Hamas. Moscow has backed Israel’s right to defend itself but has blasted Israel for employing “cruel methods” in its campaign against the terror group.

An International Red Cross vehicle carrying Russian-Israeli hostage Roni Krivoi released by Hamas drives towards the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, ahead of a transfer to Israel on November 26, 2023. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

During Sunday’s call, Netanyahu expressed “appreciation” for Moscow’s efforts to free Roni Krivoi, an Israeli-Russian dual citizen who had been taken hostage and was let go as a gesture to Putin late last month, the PMO said.

He also urged Putin to put pressure on the Red Cross, which Israel has accused of making little effort to try to get access to the hostages, which is part of its mandate.

According to the state-run TASS news agency, Putin told Netanyahu that Moscow rejects terrorism, but it cannot support the “dire” situation of Gazan civilians.

The conversation focused on “the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” with Putin saying that Israel’s military response to the Hamas terror onslaught cannot lead “to such dire consequences for the civilian population,” according to a statement from the Kremlin carried by the agency.

The Russian readout said that Moscow is “ready to provide all possible assistance in order to alleviate the suffering of civilians and de-escalate the conflict” and that both Russia and Israel are looking to continue to “cooperate” on both evacuating Russians from Gaza and freeing Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

On Thursday, Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, praising Tehran’s support for Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine and holding talks on the Israel-Hamas war.

In this pool photograph distributed by Russian news agency Sputnik on December 7, 2023, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. (Sergei Bobylyov/Pool/AFP)

“It is very important for us to exchange views on the situation in the region, especially with regard to the situation in Palestine,” Putin said.

State-run media in Russia said 100 Russian citizens were evacuated from Gaza and repatriated Sunday. Over 1,050 Russians have been flown back from Gaza since the war began, according to TASS.

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