China says Israel’s actions in Gaza are ‘beyond self defense’ as U.S. races to avert wider conflict

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China urged Israel to stop its collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, as the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken raced through the Middle East over the weekend in an attempt to stave off a wider war in the region.

It’s been more than a week after the Hamas militant group staged its worst assault on Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, killing at least 1,400 mostly civilians in the Jewish state.

In retaliation, Israel last week pounded Gaza in airstrikes that have killed at least 2,670, cut off food, water, fuel and electricity to the Palestinian enclave, and ordered civilians to evacuate northern Gaza ahead of an expected ground assault aimed at eradicating Hamas.

Israel’s actions have gone beyond self-defense and it should heed the call of the international community.

Wang Yi

Chinese Foreign Minister

“Israel’s actions have gone beyond self-defense and it should heed the call of the international community and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to stop its collective punishment of the people in Gaza,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told his Saudi Arabia counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in a call on Sunday.

“The exercise of the right of self-defense should abide by international humanitarian law and should not be at the expense of innocent civilian casualties,” Wang was reported to have said, in a separate call with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan.

Wang’s comments came in a series of calls over the weekend, as world leaders worked to prevent an escalation of the Israel-Hamas war into a broader Middle East conflict.

As Blinken raced through seven countries in the region — Israel, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — in the last few days, Iran’s hardline president Ebrahim Raisi warned in a call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday that war would expand if Israel’s siege of Gaza doesn’t stop.

“Israel has the right – indeed it has the obligation – to defend itself against these attacks from Hamas, and to try to do what it can to make sure that this never happens again,” Blinken told reporters as he arrived in Cairo Sunday.

“As I said in Tel Aviv, as President Biden has said, the way that Israel does this matters. It needs to do it in a way that affirms the shared values that we have for human life and human dignity, taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians,” he added.

Blinken’s efforts have at least yielded some respite.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt: We need to be looking at Israel-Hamas war more as a hostage operation

Egypt has agreed to open its borders to allow humanitarian aid to start crossing into Gaza from 9 a.m. local time on Monday, while Palestinians with foreign passports are now permitted to cross Gaza’s southern border with Egypt to fly out from Cairo to their final destinations.

Underscoring the gravity of the crisis in Gaza, Biden on Sunday appointed a former ambassador David Satterfield as its Special Envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues.

A senior U.S. official told NBC News that Biden is considering an invitation by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to travel to Israel on a solidarity visit amid the war.

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