Russia says Israel’s Gaza bombardment is against international law

(Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza runs counter to international law and risks creating a catastrophe that could last decades.

Lavrov made the comments, some of Moscow’s most critical of Israel yet, in an interview with the Belarusian state news agency Belta, which released them on Saturday.

“While we condemn terrorism, we categorically disagree that you can respond to terrorism by violating the norms of international humanitarian law, including indiscriminately using force against targets where civilians are known to be present, including hostages that have been taken,” said Lavrov.

It was impossible, he added, to destroy Hamas – as Israel has vowed to do – without destroying Gaza along with most of its civilian population.

“If Gaza is destroyed and 2 million inhabitants are expelled, as some politicians in Israel and abroad propose, this will create a catastrophe for many decades, if not centuries,” warned Lavrov.

“It is necessary to stop, and to announce humanitarian programmes to save the population under blockade.”

Health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza said on Friday that 7,326 Palestinians had been killed since Israel’s bombardment began. That followed a raid on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants, who Israel said had killed 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians. Hamas also took more than 200 hostages.

Russia, which backs an immediate ceasefire and a two-state solution, has angered Israel by inviting a Hamas delegation to Moscow, a decision it defended on Friday. Hamas has said it is seeking eight Gaza hostages at Russia’s request.

Lavrov said Russia was in close contact with Israel too.

“We remain in full contact with Israel, and our ambassador is regularly in touch with them,” said Lavrov.

“We are sending signals about the need to seek a peaceful solution and not to follow through with this announced ‘scorched earth’ strategy.”

Kyiv and the West have accused Russia itself of bombing civilians across Ukraine. Moscow says it does not deliberately target civilians and only aims at military targets.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Giles Elgood)