Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said civilian casualties from an Israeli ground assault in Gaza would be “absolutely unacceptable,” according to Reuters, after Israel’s military ordered more than a million people to evacuate within the next 24 hours and as Moscow continues fighting in Ukraine, where its forces have been accused of torturing and executing civilians.
Putin, who was speaking in Kyrgyzstan at a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of former Soviet states, stressed that while Israel had the right to defend itself after enduring “an attack unprecedented in its cruelty,” causing civilian casualties while doing so is “unacceptable.”
Putin said the use of heavy weapons in residential areas is “fraught with serious consequences for all sides,” Reuters reported.
He said Russia is ready to work with “all constructively minded partners” to resolve hostilities.
Putin restated Moscow’s position that both parties should work towards a two-state solution, which would include an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as a capital.
Putin, in line with previous comments, criticized the United States and said the conflict highlighted the failures of Washington’s policy in the Middle East.
Israel’s military on Friday urged people in the north of Gaza to move south within the next 24 hours for their own safety. The order, reportedly issued by warning leaflets dropped over Gaza, affects more than 1 million people living in northern Gaza, nearly half of Gaza’s entire population. The warning comes ahead of an anticipated Israeli ground assault into Gaza, which would mark another escalation in hostilities as Israel wages a military campaign against Hamas after the group massacred more than 1,000 people in southern Israel on Saturday. Thousands have already been killed in the fighting and both Israel and Hamas have been accused of committing atrocities, while Western leaders have urged Israel to show restraint and respond proportionately over fears the fighting could spiral out of control. The United Nations, which has already expressed alarm over Israel’s siege on Gaza and its swift and aggressive response to Hamas’ killing, has warned an evacuation of the magnitude demanded by Israel is “impossible” and could worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.
The outbreak of fighting between Hamas and Israel in the Middle East has put Russia in an awkward diplomatic position and Moscow has been engaged in a long and delicate balancing act managing its interests in the region. While jockeying for the role of potential peace broker in the Middle East, Moscow is keen to cast blame on the U.S. and up its influence as it continues to wage war against Ukraine. Russia, which maintains its invasion of its neighbor is for defensive purposes, has been accused of deliberately targeting civilians and its forces have been accused of multiple war crimes including torture, rape and killing civilians. Putin himself has faced calls to be held accountable for the atrocities and be prosecuted for war crimes. The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest in March for the alleged “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children to Russia—a war crime—though he has not been brought before the court. Russia does not recognize the court’s authority and since the warrant was issued, Putin has rarely traveled abroad as those that do would be obligated to arrest him. Putin’s trip to the CIS summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, marks one of the few times the Russian leader has traveled abroad. Kyrgyzstan, which has historically held close ties with Russia, is not a signatory of the Rome Statute recognizing the court’s authority.
Why Russia is engaged in a delicate balancing act in the Israel-Hamas war (Associated Press)