Israel protests Russian stance on war against Hamas, calls for ‘more balance’

Foreign Ministry says it voiced displeasure to Moscow's envoy after Russian officials criticized Israel's 'cruel methods' in Gaza while backing its right to self-defense

This photograph distributed by Russian state-owned agency Sputnik shows Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairing a Security Council meeting via a video link in Moscow on October 20, 2023. (Gavriil GRIGOROV / POOL / AFP)

Israel has expressed its dissatisfaction with Russia over its frequent statements against the Jewish state in the context of the war in Gaza, the Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

An Israeli diplomat had a conversation with a Russian official this week to express Jerusalem’s “displeasure with the role Russia is playing” in the war against Hamas, and to stress Israel’s hope that Moscow will take “more balanced” positions, the ministry added.

Among other positions, Moscow submitted a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire that did not mention Hamas, and blasted Israel for employing “cruel methods” in its campaign against the terror group.

The war began with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, in which terrorists broke through the border fence, killed over 1,400 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, and took at least 224 hostage into Gaza. Israel has launched an intense bombing campaign in the Strip, including cutting off almost all fuel, water and power supplies, and is planning a ground operation aimed at toppling Hamas’s rule over the territory.

Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday that Jerusalem has conveyed messages to Moscow in recent days saying that “Russia’s conduct and the remarks against Israel don’t correspond with the severity of the situation Israel is in, which is a state of war.”

The unsourced report said Jerusalem is arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks backing Israel’s right to defend itself don’t match Moscow’s initiatives in international forums, such as its Security Council proposal, which failed to include an explicit condemnation of Hamas and was therefore voted down by the United States, Britain, France and others.

Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov speaks to the media at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Moscow has been walking a tightrope since the Israel-Hamas war erupted, seeking to maintain good relations with both sides. It has condemned the terror group’s onslaught and supported Israel’s right to self-defense, but has repeatedly criticized the Jewish state’s offensive, called for aid to Gaza, and urged a ceasefire.

In one remark that was viewed by some as particularly stinging, Putin compared the “unacceptable” Israeli siege of Gaza to the Nazi blockade of Leningrad, which was seen by some as implicitly likening Israel to Nazi Germany.

“Various scenarios are emerging, including the possibility of military and non-military measures being taken against the Gaza Strip comparable to the siege of Leningrad during World War II,” Putin told journalists on a visit to Kyrgyzstan.

“We understand what that entails. In my opinion, this is unacceptable. More than two million people live there. Far from all of them support Hamas by the way, far from all. But all of them have to suffer, including women and children. Of course it’s hard for anyone to agree with this,” he said.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that efforts to free Russian hostages being held by Hamas have so far been fruitless, adding he did not know how many of its citizens had been taken.

“Indeed, we have not succeeded so far, but we will continue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“We don’t have exact information about how and when they can be returned at the moment,” he stated, adding Moscow will “continue our contacts with all sides.”

Last week, Russia said it was sending 27 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and its foreign ministry argued that “the right to self-defense does not mean having a license for mass and indiscriminate reprisals.”

On Monday, the Kremlin said Putin and Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held a phone call during which they “expressed serious concern about the growing number of civilian casualties and stressed the fundamental importance of an early ceasefire, the evacuation of foreign citizens from the Gaza Strip, and of ensuring unhindered access to the enclave for humanitarian aid.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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