World Leaders React to Israel's Operation in Gaza


Israel's operation in Gaza, launched on December 27, 2008 in an effort to stop the barrage of rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities, elicited expressions of support from the U.S. administration and many international leaders.

Israel's airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza were also widely condemned by many nations around the world.

This report offers selected excerpts of statements from world leaders on the situation in Gaza.

United States

Israel's operation in Gaza elicited expressions of support from the U.S. administration and congressional leaders:

President George W. Bush: "Hamas has once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization that refuses to even recognize Israel's right to exist. In order for the violence to stop Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel, and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire. That is the objective to which all parties need to be working, and that is what the United States is working towards. … Hamas has an opportunity to be a partner in the peace process. There has been a role laid out for them for quite some time. They can recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence, and live up to previous commitments made by the Palestinians. Hamas, instead, is choosing to fire rockets into Israel. So, as I've said before, as many people have said, Hamas has a choice to make. Right now they are choosing to be a terrorist organization that fires rockets into Israel. … The United States understands that Israel needs to take actions to defend itself."  (Statement delivered by Deputy White House Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe, December 29, 2008)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:  "The United States is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza. We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there. The ceasefire must be restored immediately and fully respected. The United States calls on all concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza." (December 27, 2008)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA): "Peace between Israelis and Palestinians cannot result from daily barrages of rocket and mortar fire from Hamas-controlled Gaza.  Hamas and its supporters must understand that Gaza cannot and will not be allowed to be a sanctuary for attacks on Israel. The United States must continue to do all it can to promote peace in the region and a negotiated settlement to differences between Israelis and Palestinians.  Humanitarian needs of all innocent civilians must also be addressed.  But when Israel is attacked, the United States must continue to stand strongly with its friend and democratic ally." (December 27, 2008)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nevada): I strongly support Israel's right to defend its citizens against rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, which have killed and injured Israeli citizens." (December 29, 2008)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (R-FL): "The most recent onslaught of rockets against Israel from Hamas represents a serious escalation in their war against Israel. The latest barrage of attacks by these Iranian-sponsored Islamist militants continue a pattern of indiscriminate targeting of innocent men, women and children in Israel that could not go unanswered. Israel had no choice but to defend itself.  The response of our democratic ally, Israel, has been carefully calibrated to halt the rocket fire, aimed at surgically eliminating Hamas militants and the teams that are operating the rockets, while at the same time making every effort to limit civilian casualties in the face of Hamas' callous use of innocent Palestinians as human shields. We stand with the Jewish State of Israel in its ongoing efforts to protect its citizens from those who seek its destruction." (December 29, 2008)

World Leaders

The following international leaders have made expressions of support for Israel's operation against Hamas:

Acting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillar: -"We are calling on Hamas and other militants to cease shelling southern Israel…Obviously, they have broken the ceasefire and engaged in an act of aggression against Israel…Israel has responded. We are echoing the calls from around the world for parties to move back to a ceasefire." (December 28, 2008)

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger: December 30-Israel's legitimate right to defend itself is unquestioned. It is also obvious that during a military operation, the law of nations must be complied. The numerous civil victims are unacceptable." (December 30, 2008)

Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lawrence Cannon: -"Israel has a clear right to defend itself against the continued rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups which have deliberately targeted civilians. First and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop…At the same time, we urge both sides to use all efforts to avoid civilian casualties and to create the conditions to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to those in need in Gaza…In addition to calling for immediate calm, we urge renewed efforts to reach a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to remain committed to finding a comprehensive peace settlement" (December 28, 2008)

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg: "Let us realise one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the cease-fire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more…Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? ... I am enjoying the luxury of telling the truth…" (December 30, 2008)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel:  -"It's the legitimate right of Israel to protect its own people," the "clear, sole responsibility for the situation lies with Hamas" for breaking a cease-fire." (December 28, 2008)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: "The Federal Government can in no way accept that Hamas has unilaterally renounced the cease-fire with Israel. Hamas must immediately and permanently stop the intolerable missile attacks on Israel!  We respect Israel's legitimate right to defend itself. At the same time I urge the Israeli side to respect the principle of proportionality in its military actions and to do all it can to avoid civilian losses.  It must be ensured that the humanitarian aid now urgently needed gets to the people in the Gaza Strip. I welcome the fact that Foreign Minister Livni has given assurances to that effect." (December 27, 2008)

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini: -"Condemning in no uncertain terms the indiscriminate and unjustified launching of Qassam rockets by Hamas against the defenceless civilian Israeli population, and calling for its immediate cessation, at the same time Frattini urged Israel to consider, in exercising its legitimate right to self-defence, the difficult situation in Gaza and the need to protect innocent human lives." (December 27, 2008)

Advisor to Palestinian Authority President, Nimr Hammad: The one responsible for the massacres is Hamas, and not the Zionist entity, which in its own view reacted to the firing of Palestinian missiles. Hamas needs to stop treating the blood of Palestinians lightly. They should not give the Israelis a pretext." He called upon the leaders of Hamas to stop carrying out "operations which reflect recklessness, such as the firing of missiles." (December 29, 2008, Source: MEMRI)

Condemnations and Criticism

Israel's airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza were condemned by many nations around the world, including:

Government of Argentina: "Expresses its deep sorrow and rejection of violence which once again has plunged the Middle East and the Gaza Strip into mourning, leaving a tragic loss of lives and injured among the civilian population. Argentina urges the parties to cease immediately all acts of violence. Israel must stop the bombing in the Gaza Strip and Hamas must stop rocket attacks at Israeli territory. Without any delays the path of dialogue and negotiation should be resumed." (December 27, 2008)

Government of Brazil: "The Brazilian government has followed with concern the intensification of the launching of rockets by Hamas militiamen against the south of Israel and received with great concern the news of the Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip…Brazil deplores the disproportionate Israeli response, and the launching of rockets against southern Israel. The Brazilian government calls on the parties to refrain from further acts of violence and extends its sympathy to the families of the victims of the bombing this morning." (December 27, 2008)

Government of Chile: "Strongly condemns the attacks today in the Gaza Strip, which have caused heavy casualties, including civilians, women and children, and expresses its deepest concern at the escalating violence in the region.  It also calls for the immediate cease of all hostilities and provocations, and deeply regrets the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Palestinian territories." (December 27, 2008)

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang: "China expresses serious concern about the escalation of the tense situation in Gaza, denounces actions that cause injuries and deaths to ordinary people, opposes the use of military force in resolving disputes, appeals to related parties to exercize maximum restraint and to settle differences through dialogue." (December 29, 2008).

Denmark Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller: "The spiral of violence was started by Hamas, prompting a disproportionate response Saturday and Sunday from Israel…Although Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism and terrorist rockets, civilian losses are unacceptable." (December 29, 2008)

European Union: "It condemns the Israeli bombardments as well as the firing of rockets from Gaza. It demands their immediate halt. It condemns the disproportionate use of force." (December 27, 2008)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy: "President Sarkozy…firmly condemns the irresponsible provocations which led to this situation, as well as the disproportionate use of force.  He asks for an immediate halt to the firing of rockets into Israel and to Israel's bombing of Gaza, and he calls on the parties to show restraint.  He reiterates that there is no military solution to Gaza and calls for the establishment of a lasting truce." (December 27, 2008)

Hungarian Foreign Ministry: "The perpetuated rocket attacks from the Gaza strip against Israel and the Israeli military operation in response threaten with a new cycle of violence…Hungary supports Israel's right for self-defense within the framework of international law. …Hungary believes that violence caused by continuous provocations hinders any lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace can only be achieved by compromises of the parties ready for substantive negotiations, supported by the international community including Hungary." (December 29, 2008).

Indian Ministry of External Affairs:  "The Government of India had hoped that military action by Israel against targets in the Gaza strip would abate. It is disappointing to note that the use of disproportionate force is resulting in a large number of civilian casualties on the one hand and the escalating violence on the other. This continued use of indiscriminate force is unwarranted and condemnable. The Government of India urges utmost restraint so as to give peace a chance as the peace process may well get derailed irreversibly by Israel's attack in the Gaza strip and continued violence." (December 29, 2008)

Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins: "…Condemns any use of military and disproportionate force in the solution of this crisis, both by rocket attacks on Israeli territory from the Gaza strip and by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza." (December 28, 2008)

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi: "The excessive use of force by Israel has resulted in the deaths and injuries of hundreds of innocent civilians in Gaza, including women and children." (December 27, 2008)

Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "Expressed great concern over the bombings carried out on December 27 by the Israeli army and its excessive use of force, while categorically rejects the launching of rockets to Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip." (December 28, 2008)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland: "…deeply concerned about the escalation of violence in Gaza and expresses regret over the growing number of civilian casualties.  We condemn rocket attacks against Israel by Hamas.  We also find no justification for the scale of military operation taken in response by the Israeli side.  We call for immediate cessation of military actions by both sides, resumption of peace negations with a view to establishing a permanent truce." (December 29, 2008)

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko: "Moscow believes it is necessary to immediately stop a large-scale military operation against Gaza Strip, which has already led to numerous casualties and sufferings of peaceful Palestinians…At the same time, we are urging the leadership of Hamas to stop missile strikes upon Israeli territory. We are sure that what needs to be done without delay now is stop military confrontation, restore a cease-fire, and rid peaceful civilians on both sides of terror and pain." (December 28, 2008)

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig: "The South African government called on the Israeli government to stop the military onslaught in Gaza and to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces currently amassing on the border." (December 29, 2008)

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos: "He has expressed his firm condemnation of the irresponsible provocation on the part of Hamas in launching rocket attacks, as well as the Israeli Armed Forces' disproportionate retaliation." (December 30, 2008)

Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt: "If Israel thought that this policy could help break Hamas' power, it is now clear that it has been counterproductive, even in this respect….I welcome the fact that the UN Security Council has now demanded an immediate halt to all military activities against and from Gaza." (December 28, 2008).

Turkey Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoðan: "For whatever reason, it [the Israeli attack] was carried out and a process that harms innocent civilians will rapidly distance us from peace and grounds for a humane life... I call on Israel to take this wrong step back and halt air strikes. We call on the international community not to remain silent and indifferent…We are a country that has been working for peace. While we have been exerting these efforts, in Palestine, this act against the populace in Gaza, who have already been in a type of open-air prison, is a blow to peace." (December 29, 2008)

Turkish President Abdullah Gul:  "It's extremely saddening. I condemn the attack. When the Israeli prime minister was here a few days ago, I brought to his attention that the region should not enter a new spiral of violence…I consider the latest incident irresponsible." (December 27, 2008).

United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Miliband: "The rise in rocket attacks on Israel since 19 December, and yesterday's massive loss of life, make this a dangerous moment which should be of concern to the whole of the international community.  The UK supports an urgent ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence.  The unanimous UN Security Council press statement overnight, and the EU's statement yesterday, rightly argue for this position.  The deteriorating humanitarian situation is deeply disturbing.  The Prime Minister has spoken to Prime Minister Olmert of Israel.  As we made clear yesterday, Israel must abide by its humanitarian obligations.  The UK supports the prompt and sufficient delivery of food, fuel and medicine into the Gaza Strip." (December 29, 2008)

United Nations General Assembly President Brockmann: "The behavior by Israel in bombarding Gaza is simply the commission of wanton aggression by a very powerful state against a territory that illegally occupies. The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent…Disproportionate military response – the airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza's elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university." (December 27, 2008)

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay: "Strongly condemned Israel's disproportionate use of force …She called on Israel's leaders to uphold international humanitarian law principles, especially those relating to proportionality in the use of military force and the prevention of collective punishment and the targeting of civilians." (December 27, 2008)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: "I have been repeatedly condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas militants against Israel.  While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza.  The suffering caused to civilian populations as a result of the large-scale violence and destruction that have taken place over the past few days has saddened me profoundly." (December 29, 2008).

U.N. Security Council:  "The members of the Security Council expressed serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence.  The members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities.  The members of the Council called for all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures, including opening of border crossings, to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies, including supplies of food, fuel and provision of medical treatment."  (December 27, 2008)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "Express his profound outrage at the criminal attack which represents the bombing of Israel to the Palestinian people in Gaza. In this sense, the Bolivarian Government expresses its solidarity to the Palestinian people and raises its voice to the international community to undertake a massive campaign of condemnation of these heinous acts of violence, through which it is seek to destroy the hope of life of an entire people." (December 28, 2008)

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