International community condemns rocket fire on Israel

US unequivocally backs Jerusalem’s response to attacks from Gaza; UN, EU and Russia call on both sides to work to prevent further escalation

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A bus burns after it was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip near the Israel-Gaza border on November 12, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces/Twitter)
A bus burns after it was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip near the Israel-Gaza border on November 12, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces/Twitter)

The international community on Monday roundly condemned the indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian terrorist groups on Israel’s south, with the United States fully backing Israel and its response to the attacks.

“Terrorists in Gaza are again attacking Israel with tools of war,” Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, wrote on Twitter.

“These rocket & mortar attacks on Israeli towns must be condemned by all. Israel is forced once again into military action to defend its citizens. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks,” he said.

The activities of Hamas “continue to prove they don’t really care about the Palestinians of Gaza & their only interest is to use them for political purposes. Even Palestinian lives seem not to matter to Hamas,” Greenblatt went on.

“The world has grown tired of Hamas’ violence and the violence of other bad actors in Gaza. This violence prevents any real help for the people of Gaza.”

An official from the US State Department told The Times of Israel that the administration was aware of the ongoing fire on Israel. “We condemn these attacks, and call for their immediate halt. We stand with Israel as it defends itself against these attacks,” the official said.

A convoy of Israeli tanks on the highway near the southern Israeli town of Sderot, on November 12, 2018. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Other members of the international community also condemned the shooting of rockets at Israel, but stressed that both sides need to make efforts to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.

Russia said it was “deeply concerned about this dangerous escalation,” saying it could lead to another “large-scale military,” including civilian casualties on both sides and the “final collapse of the humanitarian situation” in Gaza.

“We call upon Palestinians and Israelis to immediately return to a sustainable ceasefire, to show restraint, to take measures in order to stop the recurrence of confrontations with unpredictable consequences,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement.

Intra-Palestinian reconciliation was needed to “break the cycle of violence,” the statement went on, calling for the speedy resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks based on the various relevant resolutions by the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking to reporters in Paris, where he is attending an international peace conference, said that he hoped the recent events on the Gaza border “will be contained” because a new war in Gaza “would be an incredible tragedy” that needs to be avoided “at all costs.”

A short while later, the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace published a tweet on the matter:

The European Union said it was very alarmed by the escalation of violence in and around Gaza.

“The indiscriminate firing of rockets or other actions targeting civilians is unacceptable and must stop,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“The EU urges both parties to step back from the brink and avoid any further actions that would contribute to the escalation, put civilians’ lives at risk, and jeopardize recent efforts towards reducing tensions,” the statement continued. “All violent actions have to stop immediately.”

Emanuele Giaufret, the EU’s ambassador to Israel, said he followed with “great concern” the situation, including the “the indiscriminate firing of rockets” toward Israel’s South. “Attacks on civilians are unacceptable and need to stop. Everyone must step back from the brink,” he wrote on Twitter.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned “in the strongest terms” the rockets fired by Hamas at Israel.

French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal expressed “solidarity” with Israelis living in the Gaza envelope, condemning rocket fire against civilians. Her thoughts were especially with her compatriots affected by the situation and with the families of those who were injured, she tweeted.

Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz said that rocket attacks Israeli civilians population “are certainly not the way to solve any of Gaza’s problems & must stop immediately.” Writing on Twitter, he said it was “of paramount importance that civilians are protected and violence is immediately stopped,” adding that Austria is “is fully committed to Israel’s security.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he was closely following the reports from Israel. “I strongly condemn these provocative actions by Hamas and call to restrain from violence. Israel has every right to self-defence,” he declared.

German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer echoed Giaufret’s statement, stressing that “violence and rockets against civilians [are] unacceptable” and expressing full “solidarity with the victims of yesterday’s and today’s escalation. Any further escalation needs to be avoided!”

Smoke rising above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike, on November 12, 2018. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

On Monday afternoon, fresh fighting erupted on the Gaza border that sent thousands of Israelis to the bomb shelters. Terrorists in the coastal enclave fired more than 300 projectiles at southern Israel. An attack on an Israeli bus near the border critically injured a soldier, officials said.

Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the northern Gaza Strip and three were wounded, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said. It identified the dead as Muhammed al-Tatri, 27, Muhammed Oudeh, 22, and Hamad al-Nahal, 23. The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed two of the dead as its members.

The attacks from Gaza came less than a day after an IDF special operations officer was killed in an operation gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen in the Strip. Following Sunday night’s incident, the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”

Judah Ari Gross and Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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