(Bloomberg) -- Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at length on Sunday as tensions between the two leaders mount over the Israel-Hamas war and Russia’s growing ties with Iran.
In a 50-minute call, Netanyahu “strongly criticized the dangerous cooperation between Russia and Iran” and “expressed his displeasure” with Moscow taking sides against Israel at the United Nations and other international bodies, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.
“The prime minister emphasized that any country that would suffer a criminal terrorist attack such as Israel experienced would act with no less force,” according to the statement.
Relations between Russia and Israel have come under strain since Hamas attacked southern Israeli communities from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and abducting 240. Israel has said Iran bears some responsibility because it has trained and funded Hamas militants.
Russia’s president has criticized Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and ground offensive on Gaza. The health ministry in the Hamas-run enclave says have killed more than 17,000 people, a figure that Israel disputes. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.
On Friday, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution, backed by Russia, calling for a cease-fire in the Palestinian territory. The pressure reflects international concern about the civilian toll of Israel’s military operation.
Russia’s readout said Sunday’s call focused on the “catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” but didn’t mention Netanyahu’s exasperation with Putin.
Putin “reaffirmed his position of rejection and condemnation of terrorism in all its manifestations,” the Kremlin said. “At the same time, it is extremely important that countering terrorist threats does not lead to such severe consequences for the civilian population.”
Israel’s Fight Spreads Into Syria and Poisons Ties With Russia
The Kremlin and Israel are also co-operating less over their military activities in Syria, where Israel is stepping up strikes against Iran-supported militias moving close to the Israeli border.
Putin’s partnership with Iran — a country committed to Israel’s destruction — has deepened since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and became the subject of a mass of US and European sanctions. Moscow regularly uses Iranian-made drones in Ukraine, according to the White House.
Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu said he’d spoken with both German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron this weekend, and pushed back against their calls for a de-escalation in Gaza.
“I told them that it is impossible to support the elimination of Hamas on the one hand, while on the other pressing us to end the war, which would prevent the elimination of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
Scholz’s office said the German leader had emphasized the need to protect civilians, improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and prevent the conflict spreading to other parts of the Middle East.
--With assistance from Stefan Nicola.
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