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Amid diplomatic row, Spain Premier speaks to Israel Cabinet Minister

December 1, 2023 at 3:49 pm

Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during the investiture debate at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, Spain on November 15, 2023 [Isabel Infantes/Getty Images]

Amid an escalating diplomatic row between Spain and Israel, Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, on Friday spoke by phone to Israeli Cabinet Minister, Benny Gantz, Anadolu Agency reports.

“Once again, I condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks on 7 October,” posted Sanchez on X, adding that Spain hopes for the release of all hostages.

But Sanchez, speaking just hours after Israel resumed its attacks on Gaza, also held strong on Spain’s view that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law.

I reaffirmed that Spain considers the number of civilian deaths in Gaza ‘unbearable’

said Sanchez.

On Thursday, Israel recalled its Ambassador to Spain, Rodica Radian, in light of what Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called “heinous” statements by Sanchez.

Sanchez had earlier said in an interview that he “doubted” Israel was complying with international humanitarian law. He also called for the EU to recognise the State of Palestine.

The Spanish government has not publicly responded to Israel’s latest move but, on Friday, Sanchez said he discussed bilateral relations with Gantz.

Gantz, a former Defence Minister and one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main political rivals, was made a War Cabinet Minister after the 7 October attacks.

Gantz said he updated Sanchez on the war and developments, emphasising that “terrorist Hamas must be dismantled in Gaza.”

“Israel places great importance on avoiding civilian casualties as much as possible,” Gantz also told Sanchez, according to a statement on X. “Hamas on the other hand, continues to perpetrate horrific crimes against humanity like using children and women as human shields for its terror activities.”

Tel Aviv’s recall of the Spanish Ambassador was just the latest in a growing bilateral conflict.

A week ago, Israel summoned the Spanish Ambassador to Israel, saying that Spain was “giving support to terrorism,” after Sanchez, once again, said Israel was not respecting international law in its attacks on Gaza.

In response, Spain summoned the Israeli Ambassador, slamming Israel’s description of Sanchez as “false” and “unacceptable”.

The Spanish government has been one of the most outspoken European critics of Israel’s response to Hamas attacks.

On Thursday, Sanchez also warned that

What is going to happen in Gaza after the spiral of violence ends is not going to be acceptable either

He has vowed that Spain will recognise the State of Palestine during his term as newly re-elected Prime Minister, whether alongside the EU or unilaterally.

READ: Spanish PM: Israel ‘systematically’ occupying Palestinian territories