Russia is already wielding Palestinian militant attacks on Israel as a weapon to try to erode Western backing for Kyiv and distract the West’s attention from Moscow’s war in Ukraine, according to a new assessment.
“The Kremlin is already and will likely continue to exploit the Hamas attacks in Israel to advance several information operations intended to reduce US and Western support and attention to Ukraine,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said on Saturday.
On Saturday, Palestinian movement Hamas launched its most deadly attacks on Israel in years, firing rockets from Gaza as its fighters waged a land, air and sea assault. Israel then carried out strikes on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, declaring Israel was now “at war.”
U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington would “offer all appropriate means of support” to Israel after the “horrific and ongoing attacks,” adding that the U.S. “unequivocally condemned this appalling assault against Israel by Hamas terrorists from Gaza.”
But the Kremlin has spread information that largely blames Western countries for “neglecting conflicts in the Middle East in favor of supporting Ukraine,” the ISW argued in its latest assessment.
Following the outbreak of large-scale violence in southern Israel and Gaza, former Russian president and current deputy chair of Russia’s security council, Dmitry Medvedev, said that the U.S. had been “helping the neo-Nazis” rather than focusing on finding a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. The Kremlin has said its full-scale invasion of Ukraine is a “special military operation” to “denazify” the government in Kyiv. This has been rejected by Ukraine and the international community.
“What can stop America’s manic passion for sparking conflicts everywhere on the planet?” Medvedev, who is known for his bellicose and anti-Western rhetoric, wrote in a post to Telegram on Saturday.
In a separate statement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, appeared to blame “the West” for blocking peace-making efforts between Russia, the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations for the outbreak of renewed violence in the Middle East.
These suggestions from the Kremlin “target Western audiences to drive a wedge in military support for Ukraine,” the ISW argued.
Within Ukraine, these narratives “seek to demoralize Ukrainian society by claiming Ukraine will lose international support,” the think tank continued, adding they also serve to “reassure Russian domestic audiences that the international society will ignore Ukraine’s war effort.”
The surge in violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of fighters and civilians on both sides, with the tallies expected to rise in the coming days.
“Hamas has started a brutal and evil war,” Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Sunday morning. “We will be victorious in this war despite an unbearable price.”
Hamas spokesperson Khaled Qadomi told Al Jazeera that the movement wanted the “international community to stop atrocities in Gaza, against Palestinian people, our holy sites like Al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem].”
“All these things are the reason behind starting this battle,” he said.
Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said on Sunday that Israel would continue action against Hamas’ “barbaric” attacks in the next few days.
“This is our 9/11,” he said in a video shared to the Israeli military’s social media. “We’re going to respond very, very severely to this,” he said.
Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for Hamas, said on Sunday that the movement’s fighters “continue to engage in fierce and heroic clashes, fighting on multiple fronts, inflicting casualties on the enemy.”