Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has warned that Israel’s war in Gaza could spread well beyond the Middle East, saying it was wrong that innocent women, children and old people in the Palestinian enclave are being punished for other people’s crimes.
“Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,” Putin said at a Kremlin meeting with Russian religious leaders of different faiths on Wednesday, according to a Kremlin transcript.
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The Russian president, who has been leading an all-out war in neighbouring Ukraine since February last year, said he told other world leaders in phone calls that if Israel’s military campaign in Gaza did not stop, there was a risk of a much wider conflagration.
“Further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East,” he added.
In remarks that criticised the West, he said certain unnamed forces were seeking to provoke further escalation and to draw as many other countries and peoples into the conflict as possible.
The aim, he said, was to “launch a real wave of chaos and mutual hatred not only in the Middle East but also far beyond its borders. For this purpose, among other things, they are trying to play on the national and religious feelings of millions of people.”
On Thursday, the Kremlin said efforts to agree on a “balanced” United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict should continue. This a day after Russia and China vetoed a United States-drafted resolution that called for a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid access, the protection of civilians and a stop to arming Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, and other armed groups in the enclave.
Diplomats have noted that a humanitarian pause is not the same as a ceasefire, which has been backed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. A pause might last only a matter of hours.
Russia made a rival UN proposal that advocated a wider ceasefire – an option it says is “much more balanced” – but the proposal failed to win the minimum number of votes.
“We need to call for a ceasefire and we cannot condemn the actions of only one side,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday. “The resolution should be balanced and diplomatic efforts should be continued here.”
Israel has resisted both a ceasefire and a humanitarian pause.
Overnight on Wednesday, the Israeli army launched a targeted ground raid into Gaza as part of “preparations for the next stages of combat”, which is widely expected to be a full-scale ground assault.
Israeli air raids on Gaza have already killed more than 6,500 people in nearly three weeks, since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel which killed at least 1,400 people in Israel.
‘Crimes committed by others’
On Wednesday, Putin conveyed his condolences to the families of Israelis and citizens of other countries who were killed or wounded by Hamas.
He said Moscow continued to advocate for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, something he said was the only way to reach a long-term settlement.
He made it clear though that he thought Israel was wrong to keep bombing Gaza in retaliation for the attack on Israeli citizens by Hamas.
“It is also clear to us that innocent people should not be held responsible for crimes committed by others,” said Putin.
“The fight against terrorism cannot be conducted according to the notorious principle of collective responsibility when old people, women, children, entire families and hundreds of thousands of people are left without shelter, food, water, electricity and medical care.”
Source: News Agencies