MADRID: Israel is “a friend of Spain,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday, a day after Israel recalled its envoy to Madrid over “outrageous remarks” he made regarding the country’s military campaign in Gaza.
The Socialist premier, one of the most critical voices within the European Union regarding Israel, at the same time stood by his position regarding Israel’s campaign, which has sparked tension between Madrid and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in recent days.
In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, Sanchez said he had “reiterated that Israel is a partner and friend of Spain” in a telephone conversation with Israeli former defense minister and current war cabinet member, Benny Gantz.
“Once again, I condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7,” he said, before adding “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
“But I reaffirmed that Spain considers the death of civilians in Gaza unbearable and that Israel must respect international humanitarian law,” Sanchez added.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Thursday he was recalling the country’s envoy to Spain for consultations in Jerusalem “because of the outrageous remarks by the Spanish prime minister, who again repeated baseless claims.”
Speaking to Spanish public television on Thursday, Sanchez said he had “serious doubts” that Israel is complying with international humanitarian law in its military campaign in Gaza given the “images we are seeing and the growing number of people dying, especially boys and girls.”
Israel has also recalled its ambassadors from Turkiye and South Africa following remarks by those countries’ leaders over the war in Gaza.
Hamas broke through Gaza’s militarised border with Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and seizing around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has vowed to “crush” Hamas in response and unleashed a withering military campaign that Gaza’s Hamas government says has killed more than 15,000 people in the coastal territory.