Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov issued a surprising response to his Telegram channel after reports emerged on Monday that a mosque named after his father was struck by a Hamas missile in the Israeli town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry reported on Monday that the Akhmat Kadyrov mosque—the second-largest mosque in Israel—was damaged in attacks launched by Hamas.
The statement came two days into the war, which erupted after Hamas militants launched a surprise multi-front attack from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel over the weekend. The total death toll has risen to nearly 1,600 on both sides, the Associated Press reported.
The AP said that around 900 people, including 73 soldiers, have been killed in Israel, according to media reports. In Gaza, more than 680 people have been killed, according to authorities there.
Hamas said it launched its “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” in response to Israeli police actions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and over violence instigated by Israeli settlers illegally occupying parts of the Palestinian West Bank.
Chechen leader Kadyrov opened the $10 million mosque dedicated to his late father and former President of Chechnya, Akhmat Kadyrov, in March 2014. Donations from Chechnya contributed $6 million to the funding for the mosque, which was built in an Ottoman Turkish style, then-mayor of Abu Ghosh Isa Jabar said at the time.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry published an image on Monday that appears to show a large cloud of smoke rising from the mosque after an apparent missile strike by Hamas militants.
In a statement, it said a Hamas rocket “directly struck the Akhmat Kadyrov mosque.”
Kadyrov’s subsequent statement surprisingly didn’t address the reports that the mosque had been struck. Instead, he voiced support for Hamas.
“We fully support the actions of Palestine, because their lands were taken by Israel at one time,” the Chechen leader said.
Russia’s state-run news agency Tass offered a conflicting version of events, reporting on Monday that the mosque had not been damaged. The publication said eyewitnesses in Abu Ghosh denied reports that it had been struck.
“The mosque is intact. There was no hit. The evening prayer went as usual, people came to pray. The rocket did land, but not here, nearby,” an eyewitness told Tass.
A missile damaged a building in the vicinity, however, one eyewitness said.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian foreign ministry by email to request comment.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has called for an end to the armed hostilities in Israel, asking both sides “to immediately ceasefire, renounce violence, show the necessary restraint.”
The conflict “cannot be solved by force, but only by diplomatic means,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
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