Spain’s prime minister has expressed doubts that Israel is abiding by international law in its war on Gaza, given the high number of civilian casualties there.
“The footage we are seeing and the growing numbers of children dying, I have serious doubt [Israel] is complying with international humanitarian law,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Thursday.
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“What we are seeing in Gaza is not acceptable,” he said in an interview with Spanish state-owned broadcaster TVE.
Israel responded to what it called a “shameful statement” by Sanchez, by summoning the Spanish ambassador for a reprimand and recalling its envoy to Madrid for consultations.
“Israel conducts itself and will continue to conduct itself in accordance with international law,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen posted on X.
Eight weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive in Gaza have killed at least 15,000 Palestinians, uprooted three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million and sparked a debilitating humanitarian crisis, before a temporary truce was called on November 24.
Last week Sanchez denounced Israel’s “indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, including thousands of boys and girls” in the Gaza Strip.
“Violence will only lead to more violence,” he said, while on a visit to the Egyptian side of Gaza’s Rafah crossing.
He additionally called for a permanent ceasefire.
On Thursday, Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas entered the seventh day of a truce that has given some respite to the bloodshed in Gaza but left Palestinians on edge over when the violence may resume.
Spain has angered Israel with its official comments condemning the Israeli military’s bombardment of Gaza and encouraging Europe to discuss recognition of a Palestinian state.
Cohen snapped back at Sanchez’s comments last week, saying such sentiments gave “terrorism a boost”, and summoned Spain’s ambassador for a “harsh rebuke”.
Despite the diplomatic spat, Sanchez said Spain’s relationship with Israel was “correct” and that “friendly countries also have to say things to each other”.
During the pause, Hamas has released 97 captives, while 210 Palestinian prisoners have been freed from Israeli prisons – many of whom were held without charge.
During the truce, Israel has continued to wage deadly raids in the occupied West Bank, while rounding up nearly as many new prisoners as it has released.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also made clear that the ongoing truce does not signal an end to the war. He has vowed to “return to fighting” to root out Hamas as soon as “this phase of returning our abductees is exhausted”.
Also on Thursday, three people were killed and 16 injured after two gunmen opened fire at a bus stop on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Israeli police said. The attackers were also killed and Hamas subsequently claimed them as its members.