Putin says Gaza conflict not a war but ‘total destruction of civilian population’

Russian president blames failed US peace policies for situation in Mideast, says Moscow can play a greater role, sees Turkey’s Erdogan as a key player able to influence region

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks with heads of International news agencies in Saint Petersburg on June 5, 2024. -  (Vladimir ASTAPKOVICH / POOL / AFP)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks with heads of International news agencies in Saint Petersburg on June 5, 2024. - (Vladimir ASTAPKOVICH / POOL / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the fighting in Gaza as a “total destruction of the civilian population,” while proposing that Moscow can be a helpful mediator in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“What is happening now in Gaza in response to the terrorist attack on Israel, does not resemble a war. It is a kind of total destruction of the civilian population,” Putin told representatives of foreign news outlets, including AFP.

In other remarks, he said Moscow sees the situation as the result of a “total failure” by the United States, but that there is hope for Palestinian statehood. Russia is trying to contribute to finding peace, as can the US, but the key role should be countries in the region, Putin suggested, including Turkey.

War in Gaza was triggered on October 7 when the Palestinian terror group Hamas led a devastating cross-border attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, amid numerous atrocities. The 3,000 attackers who burst through the border also abducted 251 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas, topple its regime, and free the hostages.

“We are against terrorism in all its manifestations, against attacks against civilians — at any place and in any country,” Putin said, according to a report of his comments by Turkey’s Anadolu Agency.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released for publication by the military on June 6, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Blaming Washington’s policies for failing to resolve the decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict he said “They monopolized the peace process. They pushed aside all previously established mechanisms for collective efforts to solve this extremely difficult problem.”

“However, in practice, this was not the case. It is not possible to solve the problem with some material offerings,” Putin continued. “The real issue, political matters, need to be resolved. This involves creating two states, as foreseen in the UN’s decision to establish two states in this territory — a Palestinian state and a Jewish state.”

“For our part, taking into account our longstanding relations with Israel, we are ready to do everything Russia can to resolve this situation.”

“We have long recognized the Palestinian state since the Soviet Union era. Our approach in this regard has not changed,” he said.

Putin said he sees Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan as a key player in peace efforts.

“We know that President Erdogan has made vigorous efforts to solve this very urgent and longstanding issue,” he said. “Considering President Erdogan’s authority in the region, the world, and the Islamic world, we expect his contribution to be noticeable.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, shake hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, April 20, 2024. (Turkish Presidency via AP)

Erdogan has been vocal against Israel since the beginning of the war, comparing the Jewish State to the Nazis and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Last month Erdogan said that Netanyahu’s “genocidal methods” in Gaza would have made Hitler “jealous.” He has also met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul, after which he encouraged Palestinians to unite against Israel.

Putin has also been critical of Israel over the war. In December he described the situation in the Gaza Strip as a “catastrophe” on a scale that cannot be compared to the war in Ukraine, which began when Russia invaded its neighbor in February 2022.

The Russian offensive has systemically targeted Ukrainian cities with missiles and drones, and troops, backed by mercenaries, have been accused of carrying out war crimes, including executions and rape. Russia has occupied large swaths of the south and east of the country following fierce hostilities.

While condemning the October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, Russia has nonetheless continued to back Hamas, hosting its leaders and speaking out against Israel. Russia’s reliance on Iran for arms for its invasion of Ukraine has also soured ties between Jerusalem and Moscow.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says at least 36,586 Palestinians have been killed and 83,074 injured in Israel’s military offensive since October 7,

The figures cannot be verified and only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. Hamas does not distinguish between deaths of combatants and unarmed civilians, or between those killed by Israel and those killed by errant Palestinian rockets.

The tolls include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The IDF says 294 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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