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'As an occupying state...': Russia at UN says Israel has 'no right to self-defence' against Hamas

Vasily Zebenzya, the Russian envoy to UN, also slammed the 'hypocrisy' of the US and their allies for keeping silent on the war. He also called for an immediate ceasefire to stop the "bloodshed" in Gaza and prevent the war from expanding to other countries in the Middle East.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Updated on: November 02, 2023 16:44 IST
Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Zebenzya
Image Source : AP Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Zebenzya

In an apparent U-turn of Russian President Vladimir Putin's stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, Moscow's Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya on Thursday said that Israel does not possess the right to self-defence under international law against Hamas as it is an "occupying state".

At the UN General Assembly special session on Palestine, Nebenzya underscored that while Russia recognises Israel's right to ensure security, it could only be guaranteed in case of a "fair resolution of the Palestinian problem" based on resolutions by the UN Security Council, TASS news agency reported.

The Russian envoy to the UN also criticised the United States and its allies for keeping silent on the atrocities in the Gaza Strip while establishing investigative commissions and imposing sanctions in other conflicts.

"I also cannot leave unmentioned the hypocrisy of the US and its allies, who in other, completely different situations call for compliance with humanitarian law, establish investigative commissions, impose sanctions against those who use force only as an extreme measure to stop the years-long violence," Nebenzya said at the UNGA session.

"Seeing the horrifying destruction in Gaza, which exceeds everything that they criticize in other regional contexts multifold - strikes at civilian facilities, death of thousands of children and horrifying suffering of civilians amid a total blockage, they play mum. All they can do is to keep saying about Israel’s alleged right for self-defense, which, as an occupying state, it does not have, as was confirmed by the [UN] International Court consultative ruling in 2004," he further added.

The Russian Ambassador also called for an immediate end to the 'bloodshed' in Gaza to prevent the war from being expanded to other countries in the Middle East. He also asked to "let the mediators work on a diplomatic solution, including the prompt liberation of hostages."

What did Putin say?

While addressing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Putin stressed the need for an independent Palestinian state amid the escalating war, but remarked that Israel "has the right to defend itself" against the brutal attacks by Hamas on October 7.

He also said that there were "no alternatives" to the Israel-Palestine conflict other than the two-state solution. Russia has been urgently calling for a ceasefire since the war broke out, however, such calls have been rejected by the US.

"The negotiations’ goal should be the implementation of the United Nations' two-state formula, which implies the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, coexisting in peace and security with Israel, which, of course, as we have seen, has come under an attack of unprecedented brutality. Of course, it has the right to defend itself. It has the right to ensure its peaceful existence," the Russian President said at the event.

Russia's stance on Israel-Hamas war

Nebenzya's remarks mark Russia's strongest comments in the war. Russia's careful stand towards the war reflects its long-standing ties to Israel, Palestine and other regional players in its hope to expand influence in the Middle East. Putin has previously urged the Israeli government and Hamas not to target civilians and emphasized that every effort must be made to quickly end the war, saying an escalation would raise grave risks.

The Soviet Union strongly backed the Palestinians and other allies in the Arab world against Israel during the Cold War by providing them with military and political support. However, relations with Israel were restored under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin later revived old Middle Eastern alliances while maintaining warm ties with Israel. More than 1 million people from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union have moved to Israel, as a show of strengthening ties.

More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, and more than 22,000 people have been wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Wednesday, without providing a breakdown between civilians and fighters.

Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ initial attack. Palestinian militants also abducted around 240 people during their incursion and have continued firing rockets into Israel.

(with agency inputs)

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