International reactions to the Gaza War (2008–09)

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Protest against the war in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Protest against the war in London, United Kingdom.

International reaction to the Gaza War 2008-09 came from many countries and international organisations. (G)International reaction to the conflict was also notable in the level of civilian demonstrations all around the world, which in many cases displayed sentiment significantly different from the official government line.[1](F)[2][3]


Long-term effects and reaction

In the aftermath of the crisis, observers suggested Israel’s diplomatic position and foreign reputation had been permanently tainted. The New York Times reported in March that Israel was “facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.”[4] Other effects on Israel included: Its sports teams met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania closed Israel’s embassy. Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, deteriorated severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world in March 2009, twice the number of last year, according to its organisers. “And even in the American Jewish community…there is a chill.”[5]

Official reactions

Involved parties

 IsraelPrime Minister Ehud Olmert said “we tried to avoid, and I think quite successfully, to hit any uninvolved people – we attacked only targets that are part of the Hamas organisations”.[6]

 Gaza StripIsmail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, called Israel’s attacks an “ugly massacre”.[6] The leader of Hamas in Damascus, Khaled Mashal, threatened revenge attacks, saying “the time for the Third Intifada has come”.[7]

 Palestinian AuthorityPresident Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attacks and called for restraint.[6] President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas for triggering Israel’s deadly raids on Gaza by not extending a six-month truce with Israel.[8] Speaking from Cairo on December 28, 2008, he said that ‘we ask[ed] [Hamas] … not [to] end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop so that we could have avoided what happened’.[9] Later he called Israeli attacks “barbaric and criminal aggression”, and threatened to cut off negotiations with Israel.[10]

Fathi Abu Moughli, the Palestinian minister of health, abruptly cut off the payments to Israeli hospitals for treatment of Palestinian patients, forcing hundreds of Palestinians to halt their treatments and cutting them off from proper medical care.[11][12][13]

United Nations

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on December 28, 2008 calling, “for an immediate halt to all violence”,[14][15] the Arab League,[16] and the European Union made similar calls,[17] as did Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam.[14] Libya pushed to issue a Security Council Resolution urging for a cease-fire, an effort which the US blocked, citing the failure of the statement made December 28.[18][19]

On January 9, 2009, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1860 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a full Israeli withdrawal by 14 votes to one abstention (the United States), even though US diplomats had been involved in its drafting.[20] Israel and Hamas both ignored calls for a ceasefire.[21]

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution ES-10/18 on January 16, 2009, calling for support of Security Council Resolution 1860. Only 3 countries (Israel, United States, Nauru) voted against the Resolution.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate ceasefire and condemned both Israel and Hamas.[22]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, called for independent investigations into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.[23]

International Organisations

Non-governmental organisations


International reaction to the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict

  States that endorsed the Israeli position/defined Israel’s action as falling within its right to defense.
  States that condemned Hamas action only.
  States that endorsed the Hamas position/defined Hamas’ actions as falling within its right of resistance.
  States that condemned Israeli action only.
  States that called for an end to hostilities, and condemned neither/both belligerents.
  States that made no official statement on the conflict.

Most of the world condemned both belligerents, or neither of them, and simply called for peace or expressed concern for civilian casualties.

35 states condemned Israel’s attacks exclusively. Three of them expressed support for Hamas’ operations or defined them as falling within its right of resistance. Bolivia, Mauritania, Qatar, and Venezuela significantly downscaled or severed their relations with Israel in protest of the offensive.

Nineteen states, mostly in the western world, condemned Hamas’ attacks exclusively. Thirteen of them expressed support for Israel’s operations or defined them as falling within Israel’s right to self-defense.

For detailed diplomatic responses, refer to the table below.