On Tuesday, the office of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared details of his telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the latter briefed him on the ongoing counter-offensive against Hamas. According to the statement, Netanyahu told Putin that he will not relent until Hamas is destroyed.
The two leaders discussed the situation in Gaza after the terror attacks on Oct. 7 and the subsequent Israeli response. Putin expressed condolences for the victims, while Netanyahu said he would not stop until Israel destroys Hamas and its “barbaric terrorist infrastructure.”
Both men agreed that the military operation must be carried out with restraint. They also stressed the importance of implementing a ceasefire agreement immediately. The statement says that Putin asked Netanyahu to inform him of progress in that effort.
Israeli air strikes have ravaged parts of Gaza, killing nearly 300 people and injuring thousands more. The bombing has hit schools, hospitals, and homes of Palestinians who fled the area for safer ground and other targets. Human rights groups say that the spike in violence aims to force the displacement of Palestinians and is a clear sign that Israel plans for a full-scale invasion of the occupied West Bank.
The United States has backed Israel in its fight against Hamas, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returning to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu and other officials. Blinken and the other officials hid in a bunker until the all-clear was given in a meeting that began Monday with sirens blaring. Israeli soldiers later dropped food packages to civilians huddled in shelters.
Meanwhile, the United States and many European countries are evacuating citizens who live in Israel. Lufthansa flew 800 German nationals out of the country on Saturday and Sunday. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addressed the issue on a TV talk show Sunday, calling on Hamas to release the eight German nationals it is holding.
Netanyahu has warned Iran and Hezbollah not to test Israel in the north, a new front that could emerge if a ground assault into Gaza is launched. “Don’t make the mistake of the past, which led to a heavy price for you,” he said, referring to a 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Russia is closely monitoring the escalation, its foreign ministry assistant for international affairs Yuri Ushakov told reporters. He added that Putin has spoken with the leaders of Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Palestine to discuss the situation. Ushakov hoped the talks would help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.