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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
Western International Responses

(October 7, 2023 - Present)
By Mitchell Bard

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz flew to Tel Aviv and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Scholz declared that “German history and our responsibility arising from the Holocaust make it our task to ensure Israel’s existence and security” and warned “all other players not to enter this conflict” as it would be “a big and unforgivable mistake.”

At least 12 Germans were believed to be among the hostages held by Hamas. Another who appeared to be abused in a Hamas video was found dead.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on November 1, 2023, that Hamas-related activity would be banned. She also announced the German branch of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network would be dissolved because it “supports and glorifies” groups, including Hamas.

After the war began, anti-Semitic incidents in Germany increased dramatically. 

In one instance, a Berlin synagogue was firebombed, and there were several reported instances of Star of David symbols being painted on the homes of Jewish residents in Berlin.

On October 19, the day after President Joe Biden left Israel, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived. “I am in Israel, a nation in grief,” Sunak said. “I grieve with you and stand with you against the evil that is terrorism.” After meeting with the families of British victims, he wrote, “We support, absolutely, Israel’s right to defend itself against this murderous enemy. More than a right, it has a duty to its citizens to restore the country’s security and bring the hostages home.”

“In that vein, we will stand with Israel; we will stand with you in solidarity with your people and your right to defend yourself, to bring security back to your country, to your people, to ensure the safe return of the hostages that have been taken. You have not just a right to do that, I think you have a duty to do that, to restore that security to your country,” added Sunak.

The UK also became directly involved in the war. In November, James Heappey, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, said, “A total of 12 aircraft have deployed to the eastern Mediterranean. These flights have provided surveillance support to Israel, including preventing the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups, and to wider regional security. They have also delivered humanitarian aid into Egypt.”

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Netanyahu on October 24. “We will fight against this terror together, the way we fought against ISIS,” Macron said. On February 7, 2024, Macron paid homage to the 42 French citizens who were killed by Hamas and promised to fight every day for the release of the three French nationals held hostage. Macron described the October 7 attack as “barbarism... which is fed by antisemitism” and vowed not to give in to “rampant and uninhibited anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Israel protests spread around the world, with hundreds of thousands demonstrating in LondonIstanbul, and other cities. Lord Ian Austin witnessed the October 28 London march and observed that there were “lots of signs calling for Israel to be eradicated. [But I] didn’t see any calling for peace, a two-state solution, Gaza to be freed from Hamas or hostages to be released.”

Relations between Israel and parts of Latin America deteriorated as the war intensified. Bolivia announced it was cutting diplomatic ties with Israel. Bolivia had previously protested an earlier Gaza operation and severed ties in 2009. Relations were not restored until 2019. ChileColombia, and Honduras recalled their ambassadors.

On November 13, the 27 European Union states condemned Hamas for using hospitals and civilians as “human shields,” and the premiers of Germany, SpainDenmark, and Romania, issued a joint statement supporting Israel’s right to self-defense and urging Hamas to release the hostages.

After Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, Putin equivocally condemned “any action of which the civilian population becomes victims.” Later, while Putin was on a call with Netanyahu on December 11, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia “strongly condemned the terrorist attack against Israel on October 7.” During their call, Netanyahu complained about Moscow’s alliance with Iran and stance toward the war in Gaza. They also discussed the Israeli hostages. The Kremlin said Putin criticizes Israel’s response to Hamas and the humanitarian situation.

On December 14, Denmark and Germany arrested Hamas members suspected of planning attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe. Without mentioning Hamas, Danish police said three people were arrested across Denmark while a fourth person was detained in the Netherlands. German authorities arrested three suspected members of Hamas. European countries raised their threat levels and increased security at Jewish institutions.

As Israel prepared to enter the last Hamas stronghold in Rafah, it came under increasing pressure from the United States and other Western nations. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand called for a “humanitarian ceasefire.” A joint statement by the trio of Commonwealth nations was consistent with the U.S. position that a ceasefire should be approved along with the release of hostages with the hope that this would lead to an end to the war. Germany and France had expressed similar sentiments.

Also, Spain and Ireland asked the European Union to “urgently” examine whether Israel complied with its obligations under an accord linking human rights to trade ties.

In February 2024, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva outraged Israel when he said, “What’s happening in the Gaza Strip isn’t a war, it’s a genocide” and that it was like “When Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

Israel’s foreign minister declared Lula persona non grata in Israel until he retracted his statements.

As the United States increased its criticism of Israel for not allowing enough aid into Gaza, so did others. French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, for example, threatened to impose sanctions on Israel. “There must be levers of influence, and there are multiple levers, going up to sanctions to let humanitarian aid cross checkpoints,” he said.

French President Macron also signed a joint op-ed in the Washington Post with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan on April 8, 2024, calling for an immediate ceasefire and insisting that a two-state solution is the only way to bring peace to the Middle East (ignoring all the unrelated causes of turmoil in the region). They called for the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 2720 and 2728 and the release of all hostages while also warning of the consequences of an Israeli offensive in Rafah. It also veered into unrelated matters, such as the status of Jerusalem, with an emphasis on recognizing Jordanian custodianship over Muslim holy sites.

Great Britain’s Foreign Minister Lord Cameron echoed the U.S. opposition to Israel conducting a major ground offensive in Rafah but said the UK would not emulate the American suspension of weapons deliveries. Britain only supplies about 1% of Israel's weapons, and Cameron said a ban on weapons sales would strengthen Hamas.

Following a snap election on July 4, the Labor Party won a landslide victory in Britain, making Sir Keir Starmer Prime Minister. Within the first days after being elected, he called Netanyahu and told him there was a “clear and urgent” need for a ceasefire in Gaza and an immediate increase in the volume of humanitarian aid reaching civilians. He also said that an independent state is the “undeniable right” of the Palestinian people. He also spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about increasing financial support for the Palestinians.

New UK Foreign Secretary David Lammy visited Israel on July 14 and called for an immediate cease-fire. He said Britain wants to work toward “securing a cease-fire deal and creating the space for a credible and irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution.” He also demanded Israel halt settlement expansion in the disputed territories and insisted that the PA be “reformed and empowered.”


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