NATO warns Iran and Hezbollah not to profit from Gaza situation

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrives for a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday called on nations and organizations “hostile” to Israel, including Iran and the Shiite Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, not to take advantage of the confrontation between the Israeli state and the Islamist group Hamas, which would escalate the conflict.

“The situation in the Middle East is now very difficult and, of course, there is always a risk that nations or organizations hostile to Israel will try to take advantage of this situation. It is, for example, organizations like Hezbollah or a country like Iran,” Stoltenberg told a press conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday.

“It is a message to countries and organizations hostile to Israel that they should not try to take advantage of the situation,” he said, adding that the U.S. has deployed military forces to the region to prevent an escalation.

Stoltenberg stressed that Israel “has the right to defend itself” and that, as the conflict evolves, “the protection of civilians is essential.” At Thursday’s NATO ministers’ meeting, Stoltenberg said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefed — via teleconference — allies on “Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks against Israel and Israel’s ongoing response.”

“Allies have strongly condemned Hamas’s unjustified attacks on civilians and demanded the immediate release of all hostages,” he said, adding that a number of allies “have made it clear that they will provide practical support to Israel.”

Stoltenberg stressed that NATO as an organization is “not directly involved” in the war between Israel and Hamas, but acknowledged that it was important that ministers from member countries had addressed the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories today.

He said that the Israeli defense minister had shown his NATO counterparts a “shocking” video, which he said contained “horrific!” footage of the weekend attacks and the victims.

“As this conflict evolves, the protection of civilians is increasingly important. This is a point clearly made by the Allies. There are rules of war, there is a call for proportionality, and all this has also been underlined by many allies, who at the same time have very clearly condemned the brutal atrocities and violence for which Hamas is responsible,” said Stoltenberg.

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