Spanish defense minister says Gaza war is ‘real genocide’

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The Spanish defense minister said on Saturday that the conflict in Gaza is a “real genocide,” as relations between Israel and Spain worsen following Madrid’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state.

Reuters couldn’t immediately reach Israeli officials for comment on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Israel has strongly rejected accusations made against it by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it is committing a genocide against Palestinians, saying it is waging war on the Hamas militant group which attacked on Oct. 7.

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The remark by Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles in an interview with TVE state television echoed a comment by Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz who earlier this week also described the Gaza conflict as a genocide.

“We cannot ignore what is happening in Gaza, which is a real genocide,” Robles said in the interview, during which she also discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and conflicts in Africa.

She also said Madrid’s recognition of Palestine was not a move against Israel, adding that it was designed to help “end violence in Gaza.” “This is not against anyone, this is not against the Israeli state, this is not against the Israelis, who are people we respect,” she said.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and destroyed much of the enclave. Israel launched the operation to try to eliminate Hamas after the Palestinian militant group’s attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Spain, along with Ireland and Norway, declared this week it would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, prompting an angry response from Israel, which said it amounted to a “reward for terrorism” and recalled its ambassadors from the three capitals.

Judges at the ICJ, the top UN court, on Friday ordered Israel to immediately halt its military assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, in a landmark emergency ruling in the case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Saturday that Israel must obey the court’s ruling.

“The International Court of Justice’s precautionary measures, including the cessation of Israel’s offensive in Rafah, are mandatory. We demand its application,” he said in a post on social media site X.

South Africa has accused Israel of failing to uphold its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Israel rejects the accusation, arguing it is acting to defend itself and fighting Hamas - designated as a terrorist organization by the US and other Western countries – after the Oct. 7 attack.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday that if more nations recognized the Palestinian state it would add to international pressure for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

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