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Palestinian, Israeli Diplomats in Balkans Differ Sharply on Gaza Conflict

The Palestinian Ambassador to Montenegro and Israel’s Ambassador to Kosovo, in separate interviews, told BIRN they viewed what is going on in Gaza very differently – seeing events there either as ‘genocide; or as a ‘war on terror’.

What Palestinian diplomat Rabii Alhantouli describes as “genocide against Palestinians” is for his Israeli counterpart, Tamar Ziv, a “war against the terror organisations in Gaza Strip”.

After Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing over a thousand people and seizing hundreds of hostages, Israel declared “war” on the Islamist organisation.

Israel’s military struggled for days to crush Hamas fighters, embedded in southern Israeli towns, and it has since bombarded and invaded the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian ambassador to Montenegro, Al Hantouli, told BIRN in Podgorica on Friday that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the Israeli army launched its attacks.

“You don’t need me to tell you what is happening in Gaza, everything is on camera. More than 9,000 people have been killed so far [November 3]; 70 per cent of them are children and women. More than 3,700 children, and these are not only numbers, they are lives, they are stories, they had wishes for the future, they had plans, expectations,” Al Hantouli said.

“What’s happening right now is not a war, it’s a genocide against Palestinian people in Gaza. War crimes are being committed on a daily basis, every minute, in front of everyone,” he added.

Al Hantouli said the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the 365-square-kilometre Gaza Strip have been living “under blockade, totally besieged, now for 16 years.

“For 16 years, none of these generations have seen anything but Israeli bombings and attacks,” he said.

However, Tamar Ziv, Israel’s Ambassador to Kosovo, speaking via zoom, said he hada completely different idea of what is going on in Gaza.

“I don’t think we should call it an Israeli-Palestinian conflict but rather call it war against the terror organisations in Gaza Strip, which are Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which on October 7 decided to cruelly, barbarically – I don’t have the words to describe the cruelty in which thousands of Hamas terrorists infiltrated into Israel, into civilian villages and communities, and in the most cruel manner massacred families, massacred babies, beheaded them, killed old people, women, children, raped them, burned them alive,” she said.

“You have to remember that Hamas is a cynical organisation which has no regard whatsoever for its people, and the more civilian Palestinians are killed, the better it is for their propaganda. They cynically use the Palestinian people as human shields,” she added.

Jerusalem embassy killed off talk of Kosovo recognition

The Palestinian Authority has not recognised Kosovo’s independence, and Al Hantouli gave no hint this position is about to change.

He told BIRN that Palestine supports the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of June 1999, which made Kosovo a ward of the UN after the withdrawal of Serbian forces.

Al Hantouli said that there had been “some contacts” between Palestine and Kosovo – but everything was apparently cut off three years ago when, pressed by the former US President Donald Trump, Kosovo opened its Israel embassy in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, in exchange for Israeli recognition.

Most UN and EU states have not recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital pending an Israel-Palestine diplomatic settlement. Only five countries currently have embassies in Jerusalem – the US, Kosovo, Guatemala, Honduras and Papua new Guinea, though some others are mulling the idea.

“The decision of Kosovo to open an embassy in Jerusalem was a violation of international law and this was a red line for us,” Al Hantouli said. “Even the EU has blamed [Kosovo] for this step”, he added.

Al Hantouli said Kosovo’s current government has shown no sign of reconsidering this decision. “There is no political will, because they are afraid of Big Brother,” he said, meaning the United States.

“I mean, when you do this, you are not principled – so don’t come and cry when something happens to you,” he concluded.

Source : Balkan Insight