Lavrov calls on Israelis, Palestinians to halt violence

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. (RIA Novosti / Eduard Pesov)
Moscow is “extremely concerned” about the outbreak of violence in the region and inside of the Palestinian territories, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.

­"What has happened on the Palestinian territories arouses serious concern,” Lavrov told a news conference in Saudi Arabia. “It is necessary to immediately stop shootings and attacks."

Fighting has intensified after the Israeli military on Wednesday assassinated Hamas's military leader, Ahmed Jabari, and launched coordinated attacks against the Palestinian enclave from land, sea and air. 

Hamas, saying the killing of Jabari had "opened the gates of hell," fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel on Thursday, killing three people.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting late on Wednesday and called for an immediate cessation of violence.

Meanwhile, Lavrov expressed his regret that the Quartet for Mid-East Peace has failed to find a way to resume negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

"We are convinced that the Quartet should resume the work as soon as possible in contact with the League of the Arab States," he said.

The diplomatic process would be “unproductive and difficult” unless the Quartet and Arab League find a way to cooperate on resolving the decades-long crisis.

Lavrov corrected himself when he said “we are now paying the price for that missed opportunity,” saying that those who are really paying the price are “those who are suffering on the ground."

Escalation of violence unacceptable

Moscow has also stressed that further development of the Gaza Strip situation based on military scenario is unacceptable.

“Shelling of southern Israel, same as [Israel’s] disproportionate strikes on Gaza, are totally unacceptable, especially since there are civilian casualties on both sides,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said later on Thursday.

Over 10 Palestinians were killed and about a hundred wounded as a result of the Israeli military assault on Gaza Strip, the official stated. Three people were killed on the Israeli side, he added.

Moscow is “deeply concerned” about the situation in the region and urges the conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed, the Foreign Ministry says.

President Vladimir Putin is being constantly updated on the development of events in Gaza, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. The Russian leader plans to discuss the situation in the Middle East with other world leaders via telephone.

Later on Thursday, Putin had a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He urged the sides involved in the conflict “to display restraint,” not to follow the path of escalation of violence, and to do “everything possible to bring the situation back to normal,” the Kremlin press service reported.

The total landmass of the Gaza Strip is 365 square kilometers (141 sq. miles). The Palestinian enclave, which reportedly has the 7th highest population growth rate in the world, is home to 1.7 million people.

Palestinian medics wheel a wounded man into the al-shifa hospital in Gaza City following an Israeli air strike on November 14, 2012. (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)
Palestinian medics wheel a wounded man into the al-shifa hospital in Gaza City following an Israeli air strike on November 14, 2012. (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)