As violence continues to spiral amid escalations between Israeli and Palestinian factions based in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, the world’s top powers have weighed in, urging for a return to calm, even as attacks continue.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rooted in rival territorial aspirations asserted some 75 years ago, is undergoing one of its most destabilizing year-long spikes in violence in decades as Palestinians stage frequent attacks in Israel and occupied territories, Israeli authorities conduct raids on refugee camps, and Israeli settlers mount assaults against Palestinians laying claim to disputed land.
The situation worsened significantly, however, as Israeli security forces stormed the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday against what were alleged to be Palestinians armed with firecrackers and stones barricaded in the third-holiest site in Islam. The operation drew regional condemnation and resulted in an intensification of rocket fire from Gaza, as well as one of the largest barrages of rocket fire from Lebanon since the 2006 war between the two nations.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has blamed the Palestinian Hamas movement on both fronts and has conducted strikes against it in Gaza and Lebanon, drawing calls for action from the group directed toward Arab and Muslim nations. On Friday, another attack struck in the form of a shooting that the IDF said seriously injured an Israeli mother and killed her two daughters at the Hamra junction in the occupied West Bank.
“IDF soldiers are blocking routes adjacent to the scene of the shooting attack, a pursuit after the terrorists has begun,” the IDF said in a statement.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted Friday that he was “horrified to see the deadly terror attack in the West Bank today” and that he was “praying for peace as we continue to observe the holidays.”
Hamas celebrated the attack, however, calling it “a natural response to the occupation’s ongoing crimes against Al-Aqsa Mosque and its barbaric aggression against Lebanon and steadfast Gaza.”
Later in the day, Hamas announced a call between its international relations chief, Musa Abu Marzouq, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who serves as the Kremlin’s special envoy for the Middle East, “to discuss the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.”
A Russian Foreign Ministry readout said that Marzouq “shared his assessments and thoughts in connection with the sharp aggravation of the situation in the realm of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
“The Russian side reaffirmed its principled position in favor of de-escalating tensions and ending violence,” the readout said, “as well as establishing a negotiation process as soon as possible in the interests of a just settlement of the Palestinian problem in accordance with the well-known decisions of the U.N. and its Security Council.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also addressed the issue during a press conference that followed talks with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara. He called for a solution that would incorporate the Arab League and the Quartet on the Middle East, which includes Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.
“We have long been advocating to resume the multilateral process for the Israeli-Palestinian settlement, as there is a universally recognized collective mediator, which is the Quartet comprising Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations,” Lavrov said.
“It is in this very framework, with the mandatory involvement of the Arab League, that we can, in practice and with hope for some kind of result, search for agreements that should be based on the principles of the two-state solution, as they are formulated in documents.”
The top Russian diplomat noted that the Quartet has not met in some time, something he blamed on the U.S. and the apparent hesitancy of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to not push an agenda that might upset Washington.
“The Americans outspokenly proclaimed their course to sort out and reconcile the Palestinians and Israelis themselves,” Lavrov said, “but on terms that, as far as can be judged by leaks to the media, are completely inconsistent with the principles laid down in the decisions of the U.N.”
China also held diplomatic conversations on Friday, with special envoy to the Middle East issue Zhai Jun meeting with envoys of Arab states and the representative of the Arab League to Beijing.
Zhai “urged relevant sides to act in accordance with relevant U.N. resolutions, and earnestly respect and maintain the historical status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, and shared what China has done to ease the situation,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.
“Zhai Jun said that the pressing task now is to keep the situation under control,” Mao said. “China urges relevant parties, Israel in particular, to stay calm and exercise restraint to the greatest extent, avoid taking any actions that may heighten tensions and prevent further escalation of the situation.”
Mao credited China with having “actively responded to the call of Arab states,” including by having “asked the U.N. Security Council to hold emergency consultations on the Israel-Palestine situation together with countries including the UAE, making active efforts for de-escalation.”
“We stay in close communication with relevant parties in the international community to facilitate peace talks,” Mao said.
While not traditionally involved in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts, China put forth a four-point proposal amid the last major eruption of armed clashes in the conflict in May of 2021. The plan called for an immediate ceasefire, prioritizing humanitarian aid, stepping up international support and resuming peace talks toward a two-state solution.
China’s diplomatic status in the Middle East has also been enhanced substantially since brokering a deal for rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish ties last month.
During Zhai’s meeting Friday, he said “that the fundamental way to resolve the conflicts between Palestine and Israel is the implementation of the two-state solution and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine,” according to Mao.
He also called on the international community “to act with a stronger sense of urgency, heed the legitimate concerns of Palestine and take real steps to fulfill the pledge to the Palestinian people,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
“Major countries with influence need to step up to their responsibilities, take a just position and play their due part in facilitating the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel on the basis of the two-state solution,” Zhai was cited as saying. “China will continue to make relentless efforts to facilitate a proper resolution of the Palestinian question at an early date.”
The U.S., for its part, has yet to announce any calls with its ally, Israel, Palestinian representatives or officials of Arab states in recent days, though the Al Arabiya outlet reported Friday that U.S. officials were in consultations with Israeli officials as well as officials of Jordan and Egypt, which brokered a ceasefire to the May 2021 conflict.
U.S. officials have also expressed concern in recent days over the escalation of violence.
During a press briefing Thursday, White House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby told reporters that President Joe Biden’s administration is “very concerned” about the events unfolding in the region.
“We see now it increased; more attacks in the last 24 hours,” Kirby said. “We’re deeply concerned about that. We call on all sides to de-escalate, reduce the violence.”
U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel also spoke on the topic Thursday, condemning the rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon against Israel, asserting that the U.S. “commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad” and recognizing what he called “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself against all forms of aggression.”
At the same time, he urged calm regarding the unrest surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, saying that “we are concerned by the scenes out of Jerusalem, and it is our viewpoint that it is absolutely vital that the sanctity of holy sites be preserved.
“We emphasize the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem and any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status, to us, is unacceptable. And we call for restraint, coordination and calm during the holiday season.”
Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. State Department by email for comment.