As the new chapter of Israeli-Palestinian strife escalated on Wednesday and reverberated around the world, nations reacted with words of caution and condemnation, some focusing sharp criticism on Israel’s disproportionate use of force, while others defended Israeli action.
Protests were held in a number of cities on Tuesday night. In some Gulf Nations that have taken major steps toward normalizing relations with Israel in recent months, condemnation of the country’s airstrikes on Gaza was widespread.
Outside the parliament building in Kuwait, protesters gathered and blocked streets on Tuesday night as they rallied against Israeli actions, according to local reports and pictures from the scene posted on social media.
The new strife, which intensified over the past 48 hours after Israeli-Palestinian clashes at a holy site in Jerusalem, came against the backdrop of an easing of relations between Israel and some neighboring Arab nations in the Gulf, a careful yearslong process, and they offered a calibrated response.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, among those nations that have moved toward normalizing relations, urged caution. He spoke about “the importance of putting an end to all aggressions and practices that exacerbate tension and wrath in the sacred city” of Jerusalem, according to The Associated Press. He held discussions on the tensions in meetings Tuesday with the Bahraini crown prince and prime minister of Jordan.
In Germany, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza.
Steffen Seibert, a government spokesman, said the thousands of rockets fired into Israeli territory had indiscriminately harmed civilians.
“Nothing justifies this violence,” he said. “Israel has a right to defend itself against these attacks.”
Officials of the United Nations beseeched both sides to stop the fighting. Tor Wennesland, the world body’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a Twitter post that the situation was “escalating towards a full-scale war.”
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides extensive services to Palestinians registered as refugees in the Israeli-occupied territories and elsewhere in the Middle East, also called for an immediate halt to the hostilities. Gazan students who attend the agency’s schools were among the fatalities.
“Children are and must be protected under International Law and those responsible for breaching their obligations must be held fully accountable,” the agency said in a statement. It called on the combatants “to exercise maximum restraint and comply with their obligations under International Law in the strictest terms, including with regard to protecting the inherent right to life of children.”