Israel summons Spanish envoy, recalls own ambassador after Madrid criticizes Gaza war

Spain’s PM said he had ‘serious doubts’ Israel was complying with international humanitarian law; Netanyahu calls remarks ‘outrageous’

Spain's Prime Minister and Socialist Workers' Party Pedro Sanchez gestures as he casts his ballot during Spain's general election in Madrid, July 23, 2023. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)
Spain's Prime Minister and Socialist Workers' Party Pedro Sanchez gestures as he casts his ballot during Spain's general election in Madrid, July 23, 2023. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced on Thursday that he would recall the country’s ambassador to Madrid after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he had “serious doubt” over the legality of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

“Because of the outrageous remarks by the Spanish prime minister, who again repeated baseless claims, I have decided to summon the Israeli ambassador in Spain for consultations in Jerusalem,” Cohen wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Spain’s ambassador to Israel will also be summoned for a reprimand over Sanchez’s comments, which came several hours after Hamas claimed responsibility for a Jerusalem shooting attack in which three Israelis were killed and six were injured.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had instructed Cohen to summon the envoy after the Spanish premier’s “shameful remark on a day in which Hamas terrorists murdered Israelis in our capital Jerusalem.”

In an interview with Spanish state-owned broadcaster TVE on Thursday, Sanchez said, according to a translation by Reuters: “The footage we are seeing and the growing numbers of children dying — I have serious doubt [Israel] is complying with international humanitarian law.”

In the same interview, Sánchez urged the European Union to recognize a Palestinian state, claiming it would help end the current conflict and “stabilize” the region.

“It is obvious that we must find a political solution to put an end to this crisis and this solution requires, in my opinion, the recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said. “It is in Europe’s interest to address this issue out of moral conviction because what we are seeing in Gaza is not acceptable.”

Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza was triggered by the terror group’s deadly onslaught on October 7 in which thousands of terrorists burst through the Gaza border into Israel, killing more than 1,200 people amid horrific brutality and taking some 240 hostages.

In response, Israel launched an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation, vowing to eliminate the terror group and end its 16-year rule in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said that more than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, most of them civilians. These numbers cannot be independently verified and are believed to include members of Hamas and other terror groups, as well as Gazan civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (L) and Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (R) hold a joint press conference on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, in the north eastern Sinai province, on November 24, 2023. (AFP)

Spain’s ambassador was previously summoned by the Israeli government for a reprimand on November 24 over a separate incident. Then, both he and the Belgian envoy were called in following remarks by Sánchez and his Belgian counterpart Alexander de Croo on the war.

The two leaders appeared at Egypt’s Rafah crossing on the first day of the temporary Gaza truce, just as the first group of Israeli hostages was set for release, and held a press conference in which they criticized the Jewish state for the suffering of Palestinian civilians.

Sánchez said then that “the indiscriminate killing of civilians, including thousands of boys and girls, is completely unacceptable.”

De Croo warned that “a military operation needs to respect international humanitarian law. The killing of civilians needs to stop now. Way too many people have died. The destruction of Gaza is unacceptable.”

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