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There is mixed reaction in the region to the fighting in Israel and the Gaza Strip


All this morning and no doubt all this week and perhaps beyond, we will be following the war between Israel and Hamas. Israel responded to an attack by Hamas with airstrikes. The attack by Hamas militants included taking hostages and firing thousands of rockets and missiles into Israel. Many, many people are killed and injured. And NPR's Peter Kenyon has been asking how Israel's neighbors, countries throughout the region and the world have been responding. Hi there, Peter.


INSKEEP: What reactions are you seeing and hearing?

KENYON: Well, there have been pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Yemen and in Turkey. But by and large, countries around the region are consistently urging both sides to end the violence, protect civilian lives. Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have taken that position, for example. The Saudi foreign minister spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and he urged respect for international humanitarian law. Now, this reaction from Riyadh is significant for a few reasons, possibly the most important being the kingdom's expressed willingness to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. That would be a tectonic political shift in this volatile region, and it has drawn high praise in many quarters, but also condemnation in others, notably in Iran.

INSKEEP: Well, it's interesting that you mention Iran, Peter, because The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend on connection - a reported connection - between Iran and these attacks, Hamas sources telling The Wall Street Journal that Iran helped to plan and approved the attacks. We do not have confirmation of that from the Iranians, from the United States, anybody else. But what are you hearing?

KENYON: Well, what I'm hearing from Iran's foreign ministry is that this attack was a spontaneous move - that's what they called it - by the oppressed Palestinian people in defense of what the spokesman called their undeniable rights. He pointed to Israeli visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by groups that he called, quote, "extremist and racist Zionists." The mosque is located in a place that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. As I mentioned, all of this is happening against the backdrop of a potential rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. No one opposes that more than Iran. Iranian media in recent months have been filled with articles condemning such a move, warning it could plunge the region into chaos. Supporters of the move, on the other hand, contend that it would have a number of positive effects, not least to further isolate Iran from the international community.

INSKEEP: OK. So we will certainly be following questions about Iran's involvement and evidence as it emerges. But what other reaction are you seeing?

KENYON: Well, King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke with President Joe Biden, and he called for stronger international efforts to stop the violence from escalating. He's not the only one. In Cairo, the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo - it's an establishment of Sunni study and scholarship - it voiced solidarity with the Palestinians and criticized what it called double standards by the international community when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like other countries, Egypt has suspended flights to Israel. The Persian Gulf Cooperation Council also holds Israel responsible. And militants in Lebanon launched an attack across Israel's northern border. But many others have echoed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said, we call for restraint from all parties, and they must refrain from aggressive acts.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
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