Israel summons Russian ambassador over Moscow’s hosting of Hamas officials

Official tells envoy Anatoly Viktorov that by welcoming Hamas delegation, Russia signaled legitimacy for terrorism against Israel, demands unequivocal condemnation of terror group

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

The Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned the Russian ambassador to complain of Moscow’s attitude during the war between Israel and Hamas, charging that Russia’s ties with the terror group give legitimacy for terror against the Jewish state.

The deputy director of the Foreign Ministry’s Euro – Asia Division, Simona Halperin, called in Moscow’s envoy Anatoly Viktorov and told him that Israel takes a “serious view” of Moscow not issuing a clear and unequivocal condemnation of Hamas, as well as of Russia’s conduct in international bodies, the ministry said in a statement.

The move came after last week Russia hosted Hamas representatives in Moscow for a meeting with its deputy foreign minister to discuss the war, which broke out when Hamas carried out a devastating attack in Israeli territory, killing over 1,400 and abducting at least 239 people, who are still being held captive in Gaza.

“Hosting Hamas leaders who are directly responsible for the murderous terror attack on October 7, the kidnapping of hostages and with the blood of over 1,400 Israelis on their hands, sends a message of legitimacy for terror against Israel,” Halperin told Viktorov.

Last Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held talks with Hamas figures in a meeting that was also attended by Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy foreign minister of the terror group’s chief sponsor, Iran.

The goal of the visit was to discuss the ongoing war with Israel and ways to stop “Zionist crimes supported by the United States and the West,” according to Hamas.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry scolded Russia at the time for hosting representatives of the terror group, as Jerusalem’s public frustration with Russia grew.

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)

Israel has repeatedly called out Moscow in recent days over its frequent statements against the Jewish state in the context of the war in Gaza, the Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel last week.

An Israeli diplomat had a conversation with a Russian official last 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 was therefore voted down by the United States, Britain, France and others. Moscow has backed Israel’s right to defend itself while accusing Israel of employing “cruel methods” in its campaign against the terror group.

Israel has vowed to destroy the terror group and remove it from power in Gaza, where it has ruled since 2007. The IDF has carried out intense strikes on Gaza while saying it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

Since October 7, Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have continued to fire rockets at southern and central Israel, causing more deaths and injuries. Some 200,000 Israelis have been displaced from both the south and the north of the country, which has come under rocket barrages from the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group.

Russia has good relations with Hamas, which it does not consider to be a terror group, and has begun a diplomatic effort to try to free hostages held in Gaza. Some of those who were abducted are Russian nationals.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said Saturday that more than 8,000 people had been killed in the war, many of them children. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own members killed in Gaza, and the victims of what Israel says are hundreds of errant Palestinian rockets aimed at Israel that have landed in the Strip since the war began.

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