The Hamas’ unprecedented offensive against Israel cities has sharply divided global forces into two camps – one side expressing solidarity with Tel Aviv, and the other pointing to its role behind continuing violence in the region.
Behind the positions taken by each country are geopolitical considerations that range from strategic alliances to regional interests to shared goals to historical faultlines.
Here is how the world responded to the Hamas offensive attacks that killed nearly 300, followed by the Israel counterstrike that has claimed about 400 lives.
How West Asia Responded
Soon after nearly 5,000 rockets pounded Israel, overpowering its aerial defence system and causing massive damage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is “at war” and that the “enemy will pay an unprecedented price”. The Palestine State, led by Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, put out a statement in which it did not name Hamas, but said it had “repeatedly warned against the consequences of blocking the political horizon and failing to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination and establish long their own state”.
The Egyptian foreign ministry appealed to “both the Palestinian and Israeli sides to exercise the utmost restraint”. Cairo has been a key mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is also a key alley of the US in the region.
Jordan foreign minister Ayman Safadi warned of the “volatility” of the situation, flagging “Israeli attacks and violations against the Palestinian people” in West Bank, news agency AFP reported. Jordan was among the first countries in the region to ink a peace treaty with Israel.
The United Arab Emirates called for an “immediate ceasefire” and expressed condolences to “all the victims of the recent crisis, according to state media. Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv official normalised their ties with the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement that came into force in 2021.
Morocco, which officially started diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020, said in a statement yesterday that it expresses “deep concern at the deterioration of the situation and the outbreak of military action in the Gaza Strip, and condemns attacks against civilians wherever they may be.”
Arab League, a bloc of 22 Arab countries, called for an “immediate halt to operations in Gaza” and said “Israel’s continued implementation of violent and extremist policies is a time bomb”.
Saudi Arabia’s position and its evolving ties with Israel are being considered a significant backdrop to Hamas’ massive attack. The US, for long, has pushed Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Tel Aviv. Against the backdrop, the strike is a clear message to Riyadh amid its peace moves. Following the attack, Saudi Arabia said the “Kingdom calls for an immediate halt to the escalation between the two sides, protection of civilians, and self-control”. It echoed statements that the attack was a result of “continued occupation and deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights”.
The Syrian foreign ministry backed the Hamas attacks, calling it an “honourable achievement” and expressing “support” for forces “fighting against Zionist terrorism”.
Tehran, known to back Hamas, had a similar response. A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called it a “proud operation”, news agency AFP reported.
Qatar called upon all sides to de-escalate while holding Israel “solely responsible” for the ongoing escalation.
The West Stands With Israel
The US has expressed solidarity with Israel, its long-time ally. Soon after the attacks, President Joe Biden expressed condolences for the deaths caused by the Hamas offensive. He later stressed that his administration support for Israel is “rock solid and unwavering”.
Over the past several decades, the US has mediated steps to normalise relations between Israel and other countries in the West Asian region. It was with Washington’s support that the Abraham Accords agreements were signed between Israel, UAE, Sudan, Morocco and Bahrain in 2020.
The West Asian region is critical to the US scheme of things for reasons ranging from cultural to strategic. This focus has been reflected in policies of the US administration.
While the Donald Trump administration had slashed aid to Palestinians, the Biden regime restored some of this aid.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the Hamas attack “cowardly and depraved” and expressed full solidarity to Netanyahu.
The European Union condemned the Hamas attack, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling the attack “terrorism in its most despicable form”.
France joined others in the West in condemning the attacks. France stands in solidarity with Israel and the Israelis, committed to their security and their right to defend themselves, President Emmanuel Macron posted on X.
What India, China And Pakistan Said
Soon after yesterday’s attacks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X that he is “deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel”. “We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour,” he added. India’s relations with Israel have seen multiple stages. Right after Independence in 1947, India had been cautious in recognising the Israel State, primarily because of New Delhi’s relations with Arab countries. In 1950, it formally recognised Israel as a state, with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saying “Israel is a fact”. An Indian embassy in Israel, however, was set up only in 1992. On the Israel-Palestinian conflict, India maintained a neutral position for decades.
In 2014, articulating the Indian position on the issue, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said “there is absolutely no change in India’s policy towards Palestine, which is that we fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel”.
India-Israel relations have seen immense growth during the Narendra Modi government’s regime. Prime Minister Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel in 2017, a year which also saw India become Tel Aviv’s largest arms customer. In 2019, India also voted in favour of Israel’s resolution to deny observer status to Palestinian non-governmental organisation Shahed at the UN Economic and Social Council.
China has said it was “deeply concerned” by the “escalation of tension and violence” between Israel and Palestine. Beijing said “the repeated clashes between Palestine and Israel fully demonstrate that the long-term stagnation of the peace process is unsustainable”, news agency AFP reported. “The fundamental way out of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict lies in the implementation of the ‘two-state solution’ and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” it added.
While there are no specific bilateral problems between Tel Aviv and Beijing, the latter has opposed Israel’s construction activities in West Bank and East Jerusalem. China had also acknowledged Hamas’ win in the 2006 polls in Gaza, which Israel and the US had rejected.
Responding to yesterday’s attacks, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was “not surprised”. “What else can one expect when Israel continues to deny Palestinians their legitimate right to self-determination and statehood?” he asked in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
In an official statement, Pakistan foreign ministry called upon the international community to “come together for cessation of hostilities”.
The Taliban-controlled Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said the Hamas attack was a result of Israel “trampling on the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people”.