Over 2,000 people have been killed in Israel and Gaza in recent days following an unprecedented attack by Hamas, which prompted the Israeli Government to declare war in response.
Grave fears remain for the fate of more than 100 hostages taken by Hamas into Gaza. The UN has also expressed concern about civilian access to essentials in Gaza.
Here are the international community’s responses to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
Responses in the region
The actions of Hamas have been celebrated with public demonstrations in several neighbouring countries.
Iran has praised Hamas but denied responsibility for the attacks. This is despite broad acceptance that they have long provided arms to Hamas.
In a televised speech, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “we kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime”.
The conflict is likely to also put pressure on the governments of several Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who have recently taken steps towards strengthening economic and diplomatic ties with Israel, moves unpopular among their citizens.
Egypt – the only other country besides Israel to share a border with Gaza – is seeking to act as a mediator. The World Health Organisation said Egypt would allow it to use the Rafah border crossing (between Egypt and Gaza) for the transport of humanitarian aid to civilians.
In a press conference, U.S. President Joe Biden described Hamas’ actions as “pure, unadulterated evil,” calling Hamas a “terrorist organisation… whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews.”
“This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people,” Biden said, noting Holocaust survivors are among those currently held hostage.
Biden strongly defended Israel’s right to defend itself and accused Hamas of using “Palestinian civilians as human shields.”
He added he had told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu “democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law,” but did not directly suggest the Israeli Government had not done so.
Biden said the U.S. had increased its military presence in the region as “deterrence”.
UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk has described the situation as an “explosive powder keg” and urged all parties to show restraint.
“We know how this plays out, time and time again – the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives and incalculable suffering inflicted on both communities,” Türk said.
Türk said it is “horrific and deeply distressing” to see images of hostages taken by Hamas, “as well as reports of killings and the desecration of their bodies.” He added: “Civilians must never be used as bargaining chips.”
Turk also said the UN had evidence of Israeli missiles hitting residential towers and schools in Gaza, killing civilians. He criticised reports Israel had shut off electricity, water, food and fuel supplies to Gaza. Turk suggested it risks “compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation”.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong also condemned Hamas’ actions, which she called “abhorrent”.
“Whatever people’s views about the history of this conflict, we can never condone the targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages.”
Wong urged all parties to show restraint. “We understand that Israel has the right to defend itself… we would always continue to urge that civilian lives be protected and for de-escalation.”
Europe is split over its response to the war. One European Union official said earlier this week the EU would suspend aid to Palestinians. This was walked back after a backlash from several EU countries including Ireland. EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell has accused Israel of making “some decisions [that] are contrary to international law”.
Germany and Austria have suspended aid to Gaza and the West Bank.
China, which has had a recent active presence in the Middle East, has called for de-escalation using neutral language.