Aaron Y. Zelin is the Gloria and Ken Levy Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy where his research focuses on Sunni Arab jihadi groups in North Africa and Syria as well as the trend of foreign fighting and online jihadism.
At least forty-four nations have condemned Hamas and decried its tactics as terrorism, but regional players such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq have pinned responsibility on Israel.
The surprise air, land, and sea attack led by the Palestinian Islamist terrorist group Hamas on Saturday, October 7, 2023, has thus far killed more than one thousand Israelis and injured more than three thousand. It represents the largest number of Jews killed in a single day since the Holocaust, and currently ranks as the third-deadliest terrorist attack of all time, exceeded only by Islamic State massacres and the 9/11 attacks. On October 8, Israel declared a state of war for the first time since 1973 and has engaged in a bombing campaign targeting the Gaza Strip, with a ground invasion soon to follow. To date, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza reports that 1,100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,340 injured inside the Strip, while Israeli media has reported as many as 1,500 bodies of terrorists recovered from the “envelope” of Israeli communities along the border with Gaza. More than 75 of the confirmed dead in Israel are foreign nationals, including 22 from the United States, 17 from Britain, 18 from Thailand, 10 from Nepal, 10 from France, 7 from Argentina, and many others. Israeli media reports roughly 150 hostages are being held in Gaza by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including an unconfirmed number of Americans and other foreign nationals.
Around the globe, representatives of approximately a hundred countries have reacted to the war in varying ways. At least forty-four nations have publicly expressed their unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and explicitly decried its tactics as terrorism. Others, including regional players such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq, have placed responsibility on Israel for the attacks. Approximately twenty countries have explicitly stated that Israel has the right to defend itself, while others have called for an immediate de-escalation of violence.
Over the weekend, several countries altered their initial statements as details of the attack unfolded. The UAE, Bahrain, and China all modified their primary statements to include explicit condemnation of the killing and kidnapping of Israeli civilians. The UAE and Bahrain also revised their initial statements to specifically condemn Hamas.
The following is an overview of international reactions to the Hamas attack. In the Middle East and North Africa, a slim majority condemned all violence, with almost an equal number either condemning Israel or offering full-throated support to Hamas. North American and European countries overwhelmingly issued statements in strong support of Israel and its right to defend itself. Very few issued only a general condemnation of all violence or made no statement. While the vast majority of sub-Saharan African countries did not issue a public statement, Kenya, Ghana, and Togo stood out with particularly vociferous criticism of Hamas. The majority of Latin American countries issued statements either in support of Israel or condemning all violence, with the notable exceptions of Belize, Colombia, and Venezuela. Australia and New Zealand offered strong support to Israel, with all other Oceanic countries abstaining from public comment. Most Asian nations condemned violence generally, with India, Georgia, Japan, Singapore, Nepal, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand standing out with their explicit support for Israel and North Korea condemning Israeli aggression.
Below is a list of statements from the Middle East and North Africa along with select examples from other regions. As the war evolves, so too will the nature, scope, and tenor of international reactions. (Note that statements from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Syria have been translated into English.)
Algeria: “Algeria is following with great concern the development of the brutal Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of dozens of innocent sons and daughters of the Palestinian people who fell as martyrs in light of the Zionist occupation’s persistence in the policy of oppression and persecution that it imposes on the brave Palestinian people. Algeria strongly condemns these policies and practices that violate the most basic humanitarian rules and references to international legitimacy. In this context, Algeria renews its demand for the immediate intervention of the international community through the relevant international bodies to protect the Palestinian people from the arrogance and crime that the Zionist occupation has made a feature of its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Algeria also renews its conviction that the Zionist settlement occupation is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that ending the misfortunes, scourges and tragedies resulting from this conflict undoubtedly lies in responding to the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people and enabling them to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital.”
Bahrain: “The Kingdom of Bahrain is closely following the developments taking place between Palestinian groups and Israeli forces, leading to an increase in violence and armed attacks that claimed the lives of a number of people and injured others. It stresses the need for de-escalation among all parties to preserve the lives of people. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns that the continuation of violence will impede the efforts [aimed] at achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, [and is] calling upon the international community to take its role in ending the armed conflict and protecting civilians in line with the international humanitarian law, in addition to supporting the peace process and establishing the Palestinian state according to the two-state solution and other international legitimacy resolutions.”
Updated Bahrain statement, October 9: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed the need to immediately stop the ongoing fighting between the Palestinian Hamas movement and the Israeli forces, warning that the attacks launched by Hamas constitute a dangerous escalation that threatens the lives of civilians, expressing its deep regret for the great loss of life and property, its condolences to the families of the victims, and its wishes for a speedy recovery for the injured. The Ministry also expressed the Kingdom of Bahrain’s denunciation of [the reported] kidnapping of civilians from their homes as hostages, calling for an end to the escalation and the avoidance of violence that threatens regional security and stability and portends dire consequences for the region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for the international community to intervene and fulfill its responsibilities to stop the fighting and provide full protection for civilians who should not be the target of conflict under international humanitarian law, and to advance efforts to achieve peace, stability and security for all the peoples of the region. The Ministry affirmed that the Kingdom of Bahrain supports efforts aimed at stopping the fighting and escalation, and reaching a political solution through dialogue and negotiations and a final peaceful settlement of the conflict in accordance with the two-state solution and international legitimacy resolutions.”
Egypt:“The Arab Republic of Egypt warns of the dire dangers of the ongoing escalation between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, following a series of attacks against Palestinian cities. Egypt calls for exercising the utmost restraint and avoiding exposing civilians to further risks, warning of serious repercussions as a result of the escalation of violence, which would negatively affect the future of truce efforts. The Arab Republic of Egypt also calls on international actors involved in supporting efforts to resume the peace process to intervene immediately to stop the ongoing escalation, and urges Israel to stop attacks and provocative actions against the Palestinian people, and to adhere to the rules of international humanitarian law with regard to the responsibilities of the occupying state.”
Iran:“Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani reacted to the current developments in occupied Palestine and the attack by the Palestinian resistance groups against the Zionist occupiers, saying Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was a spontaneous move by the resistance groups and the oppressed Palestinian people in defense of their inalienable and undeniable rights. He added that the operation was the Palestinians’ natural reaction to the war-mongering, provocative and incendiary policies of the Zionists, especially the usurping regime’s extremist and adventurous prime minister. Kanaani said the oppressed Palestinian people’s inalienable right to defend themselves, their land and their sanctities against occupation, aggression, daily violations and organized terror on [the] part of the Zionist regime is a natural and legitimate right in line with all recognized international standards and the fundamental principles of international law. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman added that on the one hand, the continuation of the desecration of Islam’s holy sites and the first Qibla [al-Aqsa] of Muslims by extremist and racist Zionists in recent months and weeks, and the persistence of the Zionist regime’s policy of killing, committing crimes and doing acts of aggression against the oppressed Palestinian people, especially women, children and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails amid the silence and inaction of the international community and the fake human rights defenders have left the Palestinian nation and resistance no [choice] but to resist and rely on their inherent strength in the face of the Zionists. Kanaani noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran reaffirms the inherent and legal right of Palestinians to defend themselves vis-à-vis the crimes of the usurpers of Palestine that have been going on for 75 years. He said Iran also holds the Zionist occupiers and its supporters responsible for the continuation and escalation of violence and atrocities against the Palestinians. He underlined that Iran calls on Muslim countries to support al-Aqsa Mosque and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.”
Iraq: “Iraq affirms its firm position, as a people and a government, towards the Palestinian issue, and that it stands by the Palestinian people in achieving their aspirations and obtaining their full legitimate rights, and that injustice and the usurpation of these rights cannot produce sustainable peace. The operations carried out by the Palestinian people today are a natural result of the systematic oppression they have been subjected to since ancient times at the hands of the Zionist occupation authority, which has never adhered to international and UN resolutions. Therefore, we call on the international community to take action to put an end to the serious violations and restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, which is still suffering from occupation, policies of racial discrimination, siege, transgression of sacred things, and violation of humanitarian values and principles. We warn of continued escalation within the Palestinian territories; because it will reflect on the stability of the region, we also call on the League of Arab States to convene urgently to discuss developments in the dangerous situation in the Palestinian territories.”
Jordan: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs stressed today the need to stop the dangerous escalation in Gaza and its surroundings, and warned of the dangerous repercussions of this escalation, which threatens to further escalate the situation, especially in light of the Israeli attacks and violations witnessed by cities and regions in the West Bank on the Palestinian people, and on Islamic and Christian sanctities and deprivation of the Palestinian people of their rights. The Ministry warned in a statement of the consequences of this escalation on all efforts to achieve comprehensive calm, and stressed the need for restraint, protection of civilians, and respect for international humanitarian law. The Ministry stressed that the escalation of violence in all its forms and the continued escalation will lead to worse and will reflect negatively on everyone. The Ministry stressed that finding a real political horizon to achieve peace on the basis of a two-state solution in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions, in a way that ends the occupation and embodies the independent, sovereign Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the lines of June 4, 1967, so that it can live in security and peace alongside Israel and stop Israeli measures that perpetuate the occupation and undermine opportunities to achieve just and comprehensive peace is the only way to stop the deterioration and achieve security for all.”
Kuwait: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the State of Kuwait’s deep concern about the developments of recent events and the escalation taking place in the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories, which came as a result of the continued violations and blatant attacks committed by the Israeli occupation authorities against the brotherly Palestinian people. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms the State of Kuwait’s call on the international community, especially the [United Nations]Security Council, to assume its responsibilities and stop the ongoing violence, provide protection for the brotherly Palestinian people, and end the provocative practices of the occupation authorities, especially the ongoing violations of the sanctity of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the policy of settlement expansion. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms the firm and principled position of the State of Kuwait in standing by the brotherly Palestinian people and supporting them until they obtain all their rights, the most important of which is their independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, it warns that the continuation of the cycle of violence without stopping it and deterring those who caused it would undermine peace efforts and a two-state solution.”
Morocco: “The Kingdom of Morocco expresses its deep concern over the deteriorating situation and the outbreak of military actions in the Gaza Strip and condemns the targeting of civilians by any party. The Kingdom of Morocco, which has long warned of the repercussions of the political impasse on peace in the region and the dangers of increasing [tension] as a result, calls for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, a return to calm, and the avoidance of all forms of escalation that would undermine the chances of peace in the region. The Kingdom of Morocco, whose King, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God assist him, chairs the Al-Quds Committee, affirms that the approach of dialogue and negotiations remains the only way to reach a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue, on the basis of international legitimacy resolutions and the internationally agreed-upon principle of the two-state solution.”
Oman: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is following with interest and concern the ongoing escalation between the Palestinian and Israeli sides as a result of the continued illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the ongoing Israeli attacks against Palestinian cities and villages, which portends serious repercussions and an escalation in violence. The Ministry called on both parties to exercise maximum restraint and the need to protect civilians. The Ministry stressed that the international community and international parties supporting efforts to resume the peace process must intervene immediately to stop the ongoing escalation and resort to the rules of international law, while again alerting and emphasizing the strategic necessity to find a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution and the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Qatar: “The State of Qatar expresses its deep concern over the developments in [the] Gaza Strip and calls on all parties to de-escalate, and exercise maximum restraint. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds Israel solely responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people, the latest of which was the repeated incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli police. The Ministry stresses the need for the international community to act [urgently] to compel Israel to stop its flagrant violations of international law, respect the resolutions of international legitimacy and the historical rights of the Palestinian people, and to prevent these events from being used as a pretext to ignite a new asymmetric war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates the firm position of the State of Qatar regarding the justice of the Palestinian cause, and the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people, and to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Saudi Arabia:“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is closely following the developments of the unprecedented situation between a number of Palestinian factions and the Israeli occupation forces, which has resulted in a high level of violence on several fronts there. The Kingdom calls for an immediate halt to the escalation between the two sides, the protection of civilians, and restraint. The Kingdom recalls its repeated warnings of the dangers of the explosion of the situation as a result of the continuation of the occupation, the deprivation of the Palestinian people of their legitimate rights, and the repetition of systematic provocations against its sanctities. The Kingdom renews the call of the international community to assume its responsibilities and activate a credible peace process that leads to the two-state solution to achieve security and peace in the region and protect civilians.”
Syria: “The resistance factions in occupied Palestine recorded a new line on the path to achieving inalienable Palestinian rights, in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, which began this morning against the racist Zionist entity. The operation comes one day after the anniversary of the great Arab victory on October 6, 1973. This honorable achievement achieved by the Palestinian people proves once again that the only way to achieve the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people is resistance in all its forms and to challenge the arrogant Zionist occupation authorities whose extreme right-wing government has increased its repressive measures against the brotherly Palestinian people...Syria condemns the brutal occupation practices against the Palestinian people, stressing that the resistance’s response to these practices proves the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state on their land and exercise their legitimate right of return and build a future worthy of this people, their heritage, and their dignity, which the Zionist colonizers tried to rob. Syria raises its head high in honor of the martyrs of the Palestinian revolution and the heroes who planned and achieved the Al-Aqsa Flood operation, and affirms its standing by the Palestinian people and their fighting forces against terrorism and the Zionist methodology, and stresses that Palestine is getting closer to achieving the desired victory. The Palestinian resistance and its heroes deserve all support from all Arab countries and from those fighting for freedom, progress and independence all over the world.”
Turkey: “We are deeply concerned about the violence and tension that occurred in Israel and Palestine today (October 7). We attach high importance to the restoration of calm in the region as soon as possible, and strongly condemn the loss of civilian lives. We underline that acts of violence and associated escalations will not benefit anyone, and call on the parties to act with restraint and avoid impulsive steps. As Turkiye, we are always ready to contribute to the best of our ability to ensure that these developments can be taken under control before they escalate further and spread to a wider area. In this regard, we continue our intensive contacts with the relevant parties. These sad developments once again show the importance of the two-state solution vision. We call on the parties to renounce the use of force and work for a lasting solution in line with this vision without further delay.”
UAE: “The United Arab Emirates has expressed great concern regarding the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and stressed the importance of halting escalation and preserving the lives of civilians. The UAE has expressed its sincere condolences to all the victims of the recent crisis. In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) stressed that the UAE has called for exercising the utmost restraint and an immediate ceasefire in order to avoid serious repercussions. The Ministry expressed that the UAE, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, urges the international community to immediately reactivate the international Quartet to revive the path process of Arab-Israeli peace, and increase all efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace, and prevent the region from experiencing further violence, tension, and instability.”
Updated UAE statement, October 10: “The Ministry stressed that attacks by Hamas against Israeli towns and villages near the Gaza Strip, including the firing of thousands of rockets at population centers, are a serious and grave escalation. The Ministry is appalled by reports that Israeli civilians have been abducted as hostages from their homes. Civilians on both sides must always have full protection under international humanitarian law and must never be a target of conflict. The UAE expressed its condolences to the families of the victims and urges all diplomatic efforts to prevent a wider regional confrontation. Furthermore, the Ministry deeply mourns the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives as a result of the outbreak of violence, and calls on both parties to de-escalate and avoid an expansion of the heinous violence with tragic consequences affecting civilian lives and facilities. The UAE underscored that the international community needs to work together to prevent the violence risking wider instability and spillover, including the involvement by other groups. The UAE reaffirmed that the international community must remain resolute in the face of these violent attempts to derail ongoing regional efforts aimed at dialogue, cooperation, and co-existence, and must not allow nihilistic destruction to overtake a region whose people have already suffered enough war and trauma. The Ministry stressed that the UAE remains in close contact with all regional and international partners to swiftly de-escalate the situation and restore calm in Israel and the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories]and a return to negotiations for a final settlement within the parameters of the two state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, who deserve to live in peace and dignity.”
North America and Europe
Canada(Prime Minister Justin Trudeau): “Early yesterday, on a Jewish holiday and 50 years after the start of the Yom Kippur War, the terrorist organization Hamas launched a massive, coordinated attack against Israel. Canada unequivocally condemns these terrible attacks in the strongest possible terms and reaffirms its support for Israel’s right to defend itself, in accordance with international law. The images we have seen are horrifying and shocking. As we fully realize the scale and brutality of this violence in the coming days, we extend our deepest condolences to everyone affected. Our hearts break for the hundreds of innocent people whose lives were senselessly taken. We call for the immediate release of those being held hostage and demand they be treated in accordance with international law. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and we are in touch with our international partners to restore peace and security in the region. We must all work to protect civilian life. To our Israeli friends, Canadians stand with you. The Government of Canada stands ready to support you—our support for the Israeli people is steadfast.”
Ukraine (President Volodymyr Zelensky): “Horrible news from Israel. My condolences go out to everyone who lost relatives or close ones in the terrorist attack. We have faith that order will be restored and terrorists will be defeated. Terror should have no place in the world, because it is always a crime, not just against a specific country or this terror’s victims, but against humanity in general and our entire world. Anyone who resorts to terror commits a crime against the world. Whoever finances terror is committing a crime against the world. The world must stand united and in solidarity so that terror does not attempt to break or subjugate life anywhere and at any moment. Israel’s right to self-defense is unquestionable. All details surrounding this terrorist assault must be revealed so that the world knows and holds accountable everyone who supported and helped carry out the attack. All Ukrainian citizens who remain in the risk zone must carefully obey all orders issued by local security services and remain vigilant. Please be cautious. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our embassy in Israel are ready to assist in any situation. To support Ukrainians in Israel, we established an operational headquarters. If you require assistance, please contact any of our diplomatic or consular offices in any convenient and accessible manner. Every life is valuable! We condemn all forms of terrorism.”
United States (President Joe Biden): “This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu about the horrific and ongoing attacks in Israel. The United States unequivocally condemns this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, and I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel. Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. Jill and I are keeping in our prayers all of the families who have been hurt by this violence. We are heartbroken by the lives that have been tragically cut short and hope for a swift recovery for all those who have been wounded. My team and I are tracking this situation closely, and I will remain in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
United States, France, Britain, Italy, and Germany (joint statement): “Today, we—President [Emmanuel] Macron of France, Chancellor [Olaf] Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister [Giorgia] Meloni of Italy, Prime Minister [Rishi] Sunak of the United Kingdom, and President [Joe] Biden of the United States—express our steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism. We make clear that the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned. There is never any justification for terrorism. In recent days, the world has watched in horror as Hamas terrorists massacred families in their homes, slaughtered over 200 young people enjoying a music festival, and kidnapped elderly women, children, and entire families, who are now being held as hostages. Our countries will support Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities. We further emphasize that this is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. All of us recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But make no mistake: Hamas does not represent those aspirations, and it offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed. Over the coming days, we will remain united and coordinated, together as allies, and as common friends of Israel, to ensure Israel is able to defend itself, and to ultimately set the conditions for a peaceful and integrated Middle East region.”
China: “China is deeply concerned over the current escalation of tensions and violence between Palestine and Israel. We call on relevant parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and immediately end the hostilities to protect civilians and avoid further deterioration of the situation. The recurrence of the conflict shows once again that the protracted standstill of the peace process cannot go on. The fundamental way out of the conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine. The international community needs to act with greater urgency, step up input into the Palestine question, facilitate the early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and find a way to bring about enduring peace. China will continue to work relentlessly with the international community towards that end.”
India (Prime Minister Narendra Modi): “Deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour.”
Russia: “Russia is gravely concerned over a sharp escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In this regard we would like to reaffirm our principled and consistent stance that this conflict, which has continued for 75 years, cannot be resolved by force and can be settled exclusively by political and diplomatic means, by engaging in a full-fledged negotiation process based on the well-known international legal framework stipulating the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem that co-exists with Israel in peace and security. We regard the current large-scale escalation as another extremely dangerous manifestation of a vicious circle of violence resulting from chronic failure to comply with the corresponding resolutions of the UN and its Security Council and the blocking by the West of the work of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators made up of Russia, the United States, the EU and the UN. We call on the Palestinian and Israeli sides to implement an immediate ceasefire, renounce violence, exercise restraint and begin, with the assistance of the international community, a negotiation process aimed at establishing a comprehensive, lasting and long-awaited peace in the Middle East.”
Cleary Waldo is a research associate with The Washington Institute’s Koret Project on Arab-Israel Relations. Gabriel Epstein and Sydney Hilbush are research assistants at the Institute.