PM speaks with Mahmoud Abbas, reiterates support for Palestinian statehood

Updated - October 20, 2023 12:21 am IST

Published - October 19, 2023 10:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Palestinian emergency services and local citizens search for victims in buildings destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza.

Palestinian emergency services and local citizens search for victims in buildings destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mr. Modi also conveyed his condolences to the Palestinian Authority president for those who died in the Gaza hospital bombing, expressed concern at terrorism, and vowed to continue humanitarian aid

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 19 expressed his condolences to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, for the loss of Palestinian lives in their ongoing conflict with Israel. The PM had earlier spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also expressed India’s support to their efforts to defeat terrorism.

Echoing India’s official position, the Opposition Congress party also expressed support for the rights of the Palestinian people. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge called for an “immediate cease-fire” and for humanitarian assistance to the people of the Gaza Strip. 

“Spoke to the President of the Palestinian Authority H E Mahmoud Abbas. Conveyed my condolences at the loss of civilian lives at the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza. We will continue to send humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people. Shared our deep concern at the terrorism, violence and deteriorating security situation in the region. Reiterated India’s long-standing principled position on the Israel-Palestine issue,” Mr. Modi said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

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Diplomacy with both sides

Mr. Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Gaza Strip, however, is controlled by the Hamas militant group. Since the bombing of the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza City on October 17, the West Bank has witnessed major protests against Israel’s military campaign against the Gaza Strip.

Indian leaders have maintained communications with both sides in the conflict, which erupted when Hamas attacked Israeli targets on October 7 in an unprecedented, multi-level operation that killed nearly 1,300 people and took about 200 Israelis and foreigners hostage.

Apart from Mr. Modi’s personal conversations with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has also spoken to his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Faisal Bin Farhan and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is understood that India’s conversation with other stakeholders is aimed at creating a network of dialogue to foster a solution to the current crisis and ensure the wellbeing of the hostages.

Two-state solution

The PM had reached out to Israel immediately after the October 7 attack and condemned the killings by Hamas. This was supplemented by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which reiterated that India continues to seek a two-state solution where a sovereign Palestinian State will exist side by side with Israel.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi repeated the call for dialogue on October 19 during the weekly press briefing. He also highlighted India’s humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, saying that $29.53 million has been contributed to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees.

Congress calls for cease-fire

India’s official position was echoed by Mr. Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress chief said the bombing of the Al Ahli hospital was “unjustifiable”, and called the perpetrators to be held accountable. 

“The Indian National Congress repeats its call for an immediate cease-fire and for humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered people of Gaza. It calls upon all sides to abandon the path of senseless violence and war and begin the process of negotiations and diplomacy so that the aspirations of the Palestinian people are fulfilled and the security concerns of Israel are also ensured,” Mr. Kharge said, emphasising that Palestinians deserve a “life of dignity, self-respect and equality in a sovereign State of their own.”

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also commented on the situation, describing the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the taking of hostage by Hamas as “crimes against humanity”. 

“The killing of thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in Gaza and the collective punishment of millions of people by cutting off their food, water and electricity are crimes against humanity. Hamas’ killing of innocent Israelis and taking of hostages is a crime and must also be condemned. The cycle of violence between Israel and Palestine must be brought to an end,” Mr. Gandhi said.

While both Mr. Kharge and Mr. Gandhi criticised Hamas and the Israeli military forces for targeting innocent civilians, neither specifically blamed Israel for the bombings at the Al Ahli hospital at Gaza.

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