Stabbing of Iran International journalist in London bears the hallmarks of a secret army black-ops program

Special Stabbing of Iran International journalist in London bears the hallmarks of a secret army black-ops program
1 / 3
Stabbed outside his home in Wimbledon on March 29, Pouria Zeraati later released a photograph of himself in hospital, vowing to be back on air soon. Back on the airwaves, he said “the show must go on.” (Supplied)
Special Stabbing of Iran International journalist in London bears the hallmarks of a secret army black-ops program
2 / 3
Back on the airwaves, Pouria Zeraati, a victim of suspected Iran state terrorism, said “the show must go on.” (Supplied)
Special Stabbing of Iran International journalist in London bears the hallmarks of a secret army black-ops program
3 / 3
Pouria Zeraati in hospital after he was stabbed outside his home in Wimbledon, UK, on March 29. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 07 April 2024
Follow

Stabbing of Iran International journalist in London bears the hallmarks of a secret army black-ops program

Stabbing of Iran International journalist in London bears the hallmarks of a secret army black-ops program
  • Pouria Zeraati assault suggests IRGC operatives undaunted in their determination to intimidate overseas dissidents
  • Some hosts of the Persian-language TV channel not only face social-media abuse but also risk to their lives

LONDON: On Nov. 16, 2022, armed police descended in force on a West London business park, home to leading international brands such as Starbucks and Danone and a sprinkling of media companies, among them CBS, Paramount and the Discovery channel.

To the shock of the thousands of people who work in the dozen modern buildings, clustered around landscaped gardens featuring lakes, a waterfall, cafes and a boardwalk, security barriers were thrown up at every vehicle entrance, pedestrians entering the site were obliged to pass through body scanners and the colorful food trucks on the campus were joined by a fleet of black police armored cars.




Iran International, a Persian-language TV in London, has been categorized by Tehran as a “terrorist” organization. (Supplied)

One building in particular, home to Persian-language satellite TV channel Iran International, came in for special attention. Security fencing and concrete “Hostile Vehicle Mitigation” blocks were installed around it and armed police and dog handlers patrolled the perimeter.

Earlier that month, Volant Media, which owns the channel, had revealed that two of its British Iranian journalists had been warned by police that there was “an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.”

Its journalists were accustomed to receiving abuse on social media, a spokesman said, but the threats marked “a significant and dangerous escalation of a state-sponsored campaign to intimidate Iranian journalists working abroad.”




“Wanted dead or alive” posters against Pouria Zeraati, Sima Sabet, Niusha Saremi and Truske Sadeghi published by the IRGC-backed Fars News Agency seen on the streets of Tehran. (Supplied)

Two months earlier, Esmail Khatib, Iran’s intelligence minister, had said Iran International had been categorized by Tehran as a “terrorist” organization and that its “agents” would be pursued.

Sanctions were also announced against the channel and BBC News Persian, both accused of inciting riots and supporting terrorism with their coverage of protests in Iran, triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested in Tehran for violating Iran’s hijab laws.

On the same day that armed police locked down Chiswick Business Park, Ken McCallum, director-general of the UK’s domestic security service, MI5, said Iran “projects threat to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services.

“At its sharpest this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime.”




Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Salami speaking during a military drill near the island of Abu Musa, off the coast of the southern Iranian city of Bandar Lengeh. (IRGC handout via Sepah News/AFP)

Only the previous week, he added, the British foreign secretary had “made clear to the Iranian regime that the UK will not tolerate intimidation or threats to life towards journalists, or any individual, living in the UK.”

But the news that one of Iran International’s London-based journalists had been attacked by a group of men and stabbed outside his home in Wimbledon, in south London, on March 29 showed that the regime remains undaunted in its determination to intimidate dissidents wherever they are in the world.

Pouria Zeraati survived the attack, which left him wounded in the leg — he later released a photograph of himself in hospital, smiling defiantly and vowing to be back on air soon. Back on the airwaves, he said “the show must go on.”




Pouria Zeraati, center, with leading British IRGC specialist Kasra Aarabi, left, and political commentator Al Hossein Ghazizade. (Supplied)

The attack is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, which says his attackers drove straight to Heathrow Airport and fled the country. Their destination has not been revealed.

The “siege” of Chiswick Business Park, as it became known locally, continued until February 2023, when Iran International announced it was “reluctantly and temporarily” closing its London studios and moving to Washington, D.C.

The last straw for the company was the arrest on Feb. 11, 2023, of an Austrian national, who was caught red-handed by security staff while carrying out “hostile reconnaissance” outside its offices.

Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev was swiftly arrested by armed anti-terrorist police in a cafe at the business park.

He was charged with terrorism offenses and at his trial at the Old Bailey in December 2023 was found guilty of attempting to collect information “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."




Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, a Chechnya-born Austrian national, was convicted in Britain of spying for a group suspected of planning an attack on an independent Iranian TV station in London. He was sentenced to jail for three-and-a-half years. (Metropolitan Police photo / AFP)

During the trial it was revealed that the Chechen individual had taken a minicab directly to the business park after flying to Gatwick Airport from Vienna. He was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.

The reality, said an Iranian activist living in London speaking on condition of anonymity, “is that Iranian dissidents living in exile know they are increasingly at risk from a regime that has shown it can and will reach out to intimidate, threaten and even kill anyone, anywhere, any time.

“It is also clear that it has no qualms about using foreign and domestic criminals as its weapons of choice.”

The depths to which Iranian operatives are prepared to sink in order to silence critics became clear in January this year, when the US and the UK jointly imposed sanctions on a network of “individuals that targeted Iranian dissidents and opposition activists for assassination ... at the behest of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).”

According to the US Treasury, the network was led by “Iranian narcotics trafficker Naji Ibrahim Sharifi Zindashti and operates at the behest of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.”

Zindashti’s gang was responsible for “numerous acts of transnational repression including assassinations and kidnappings across multiple jurisdictions in an attempt to silence the Iranian regime’s perceived critics.”

 

 

In a statement, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said that the MOIS and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “have long targeted perceived regime opponents in acts of transnational repression outside of Iran, a practice that the regime has accelerated in recent years.

“A wide range of dissidents, journalists, activists and former Iranian officials have been targeted for assassination, kidnapping and hacking operations across numerous countries in the Middle East, Europe and North America.”

INNUMBERS

15 Plots to kidnap or kill UK-based individuals since start of 2022 by Iran’s secret army.

4 Iranians charged by US in 2021 for plot to kidnap journalist Masih Alinejad.

$300,000 Money offered by accused Iranian in 2022 plot to murder ex-Trump official John Bolton.

The scale of the IRGC’s black-ops program in one country alone was hinted at in February last year when Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, the head of the Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that police and MI5 had foiled “15 plots since the start of 2022 to either kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime.”

Only occasionally do such plots make the headlines.

The US believes that IRGC agents engineered the assassination in The Netherlands of Ahmad Molla Nissi, a 52-year-old activist who campaigned for independence for Iran’s Ahwazi Arabs. Nissi was shot dead outside his home in The Hague in November 2017.




Ahmad Molla Nissi, founder of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, was shot dead outside his home in The Netherlands in November 2017. (X: @ahwazona1999)

In October 2019 Ruhollah Zam, a journalist living under political asylum in France who ran a popular anti-government website, was kidnapped during a visit to Iraq. After being taken to Iran, he was tortured, subjected to a sham trial and then hanged on Dec. 12, 2020.

In July 2020 Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian German activist, was kidnapped while traveling abroad and forcibly brought to Iran, where he has been sentenced to death.

 




German-Iranian political dissident Jamshid Sharmahd. (Amnesty International photo)

According to US Treasury, Tehran “increasingly relies on organized criminal groups in furtherance of these plots in an attempt to obscure links to the Government of Iran and maintain plausible deniability.”

Zindashti, who was sanctioned by the US in January and is believed to be in Iran, is wanted by the FBI “for his alleged involvement in criminal activities including the attempted murder-for-hire of two residents of the state of Maryland.”

His Iran-based criminal network, says the FBI, “allegedly used encrypted, internet-based messaging applications to hire criminal elements within North America to murder two individuals who fled Iran” and “allegedly provided resources to facilitate the attempted transnational killing of a person within the United States.”

On Dec. 13 2023, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Zindashti after he was charged with “Conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire” — US legal longhand for hiring a hitman.

According to the FBI, Zindashti was born in Urmia, a city in Iran’s northwest, close to the borders of Iraq and Turkiye. He weighs approximately 113 kg, is 190 cm tall and speaks several languages, including English, Farsi and Turkish.

The Iranians’ predilection for collaborating with underworld characters has led to some strange alliances. Alongside Zindashti, in January the US Justice Department indicted two Canadian nationals as alleged accomplices in his murder-for-hire plot to kill two US residents in Maryland.

 

 

Damion Patrick John Ryan, 43, and Adam Richard Pearson, 29, are members of a chapter of the motorcycle gang Hells Angels. Both are imprisoned in Canada on unrelated offenses.

The US Justice Department released details of the deal between Zindashti and the two men, who communicated through Sky ECC, an encrypted messaging network that has since been shut down by authorities in the US and Europe.

A fee of $350,000, plus $20,000 in expenses, was agreed for the killing of two targets, a man and a woman. Photographs of the intended victims were exchanged, along with their address and a map showing their location.

Discussing the plot regularly between December 2020 and January 2021, Ryan told Zindashti that having someone killed in the US was challenging, but that he “might have someone to do it.” That same day he messaged Pearson about a “job” in Maryland.

Pearson replied to say he was “on it” and that “shooting is probably easiest thing for them.” He would tell the gunmen he planned to recruit to “shoot (the victim) in the head a lot (to) make example,” adding “We gotta erase his head from his torso.” A “four-man team” would carry out the killings.

Immediately after the attack on Zeraati in London, a former journalist with Iran International said she had been told by the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Unit “to immediately leave my residence and stay elsewhere until further notice.”




British Iranian journalist Sima Sabet. (X: @Sima_Sabet)
 

Writing on X, Sima Sabet revealed that last year she and her colleague Fardad Farahzad, who is now based in Washington, had been the targets of an assassination attempt orchestrated by the IRGC.

She said the plot was foiled by a “Western security service,” which had obtained “audio and video files in which a Quds Force commander ordered an individual to kill me and Farahzad with a knife.”




Esmail Qaani, commander of Iran's dreaded Quds Force, speaks in Tehran during a commemoration ceremony marking the anniversary of the 2020 killing of IRGCV general Qasem Soleimani (on screen) on January 3, 2024. (AFP/File)

According to Sabet, the attack on Zeraati was “a serious warning and an extremely troubling act for all journalists and opponents of the Islamic Republic in Britain and other Western countries.”

Mehdi Hosseini Matin, Iran’s charge d’affaires in the UK, has said “we deny any link” to the attack.
 

 


Joy in Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut as European trio advances cause

Joy in Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut as European trio advances cause
Updated 56 min 9 sec ago
Follow

Joy in Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut as European trio advances cause

Joy in Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut as European trio advances cause
  • “We hope that the whole world will recognize Palestine, and we are happy with this decision... It is a beautiful feeling,” said Alaa Ghozlan
  • Israel was enraged by the move announced Wednesday by Ireland, Norway and Spain, arguing that it amounts to “rewarding terrorism”

SHATILA, Lebanon: In Beirut’s impoverished Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila — a maze of alleyways where posters honor fallen martyrs — residents expressed joy Wednesday after three European countries said they would recognize a Palestinian state.
“We hope that the whole world will recognize Palestine, and we are happy with this decision... It is a beautiful feeling,” said Alaa Ghozlan, 26, whose family is originally from Haifa, now in northern Israel.
“We now have hope to return to our country — a country I was not born in and was deprived of but which lives inside me despite everything,” he told AFP on a winding street in the camp.
Israel was enraged by the move announced Wednesday by Ireland, Norway and Spain, arguing that it amounts to “rewarding terrorism” after Palestinian militant group Hamas launched its unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the bloodiest ever Gaza war.
Seven other European countries including Sweden have already recognized Palestinian statehood.
Lebanon hosts an estimated 250,000 Palestinian refugees, many living in poverty in the country’s 12 official camps, according to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
Most are descendants of survivors of what Palestinians call the Nakba — the “catastrophe” — when about 760,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes by the 1948 war over Israel’s creation.
Shatila resident Samah Omari, 50, a housewife, said she was “very happy” with the decision, and expressed hope that it would eventually impact her and her family.
“People are dying in Palestine. We demand our rights and defend our land so that our state can be recognized by all countries,” she said.
“We hope to return to our country and not be refugees anymore,” she added.
The camp’s tumbledown walls are adorned with Palestinian flags and posters in support of militant groups including Hamas and their leaders.
Men on motorbikes and tuk-tuks squeeze past women shopping and schoolchildren making their way through the streets.
Above, matted electricity wires and plastic water tubes are bound precariously with rope or cables, some weighed down by clothes that have fallen from washing lines.
The United States and most Western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognize Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement is reached on thorny issues like final borders and the status of Jerusalem.
But Israel’s war against Hamas militants in Gaza, with its mounting death toll, has given the issue new impetus.
Suliman Abdel Hadi, 70, an official at the camp, said the timing of the decision was “important after October 7 because of the massacres carried out by the brutal Zionist enemy.”
“We see a bright future for the Palestinian cause,” said Abdel Hadi, whose family is from the Acre area, now in northern Israel.
“What happened today is the result of sacrifices made by the Palestinian people over 76 years of persecution, killing and destruction,” he added.
Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,709 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
On another street in Shatila, a man who gave his name as Abu Majdi, and whose father originally hailed from Haifa, called the decision “great” and said it was “baptised in the blood of martyrs.”
“This recognition will change the future of coming generations and the future of the Palestinian cause,” said the 63-year-old man, a Palestine pendant hanging from his neck.


Israel allows return to three evacuated West Bank settlements

Israel allows return to three evacuated West Bank settlements
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Israel allows return to three evacuated West Bank settlements

Israel allows return to three evacuated West Bank settlements
  • The military announced the move on the day three European states said they would formally recognize the State of Palestine
  • A fourth settlement, Homesh, was cleared for entry last year

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military has approved permission for Israelis to return to three former West Bank settlements they had been banned from entering since an evacuation ordered in 2005, the defense ministry said on Wednesday.
The three settlements, Sa-nur, Ganim and Kadim, are located near the Palestinian cities of Jenin and Nablus, both of which are strongholds of armed militant groups in the northern West Bank.
A fourth settlement, Homesh, was cleared for entry last year after parliament passed an amendment to the so-called “disengagement law” of 2005. Permission from the military, which has overall control of the West Bank, was required for any return to the other three former settlements.
The military announced the move on the day three European states said they would formally recognize the State of Palestine, and as Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinian militant group Hamas continued in the Gaza Strip.
It took the decision despite international pressure on Israel to curb settlement expansion in the West Bank, which Palestinians want as the core of a future independent state alongside Gaza.
“The Jewish hold on Judea and Samaria guarantees security, the application of the law to cancel disengagement will lead to the development of settlement and provide security to residents of the area,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement, using the Biblical names for the West Bank that are often used in Israel.
There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority.
Last year’s amendment to the disengagement law was seen as opening the way to re-establishing former West Bank settlements evacuated in 2005 under a plan overseen by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Under the plan, which was opposed by the settler movement at the time, all 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza were ordered to be evacuated. Most settlements in the West Bank were unaffected apart from the four that will now be accessible again.
More than 500,000 Jewish settlers are now estimated to be living in the West Bank, part of territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, with a further 200,000 living in East Jerusalem.
For Palestinians and most of the international community, the settlements are considered illegal. Israel disputes this, citing the Jewish people’s historical, biblical and political links to the area as well as security considerations.
Despite international opposition, settlements have continued to expand strongly under successive Israeli governments.


Death of Iran’s president has delayed talks with UN nuclear watchdog, Grossi says

Death of Iran’s president has delayed talks with UN nuclear watchdog, Grossi says
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Death of Iran’s president has delayed talks with UN nuclear watchdog, Grossi says

Death of Iran’s president has delayed talks with UN nuclear watchdog, Grossi says
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency faces a range of challenges in Iran
  • Nuclear watchdog has been trying to expand its oversight of Iran’s atomic activities

HELSINKI: The deaths of Iran’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash have caused a pause in the UN nuclear watchdog’s talks with Tehran over improving cooperation with the agency, the watchdog’s chief Rafael Grossi told Reuters on Wednesday.
“They are in a mourning period which I need to respect,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Grossi said in Helsinki, where he spoke at a nuclear conference.
“But once this is over, we are going to be engaging again,” he said, describing it as a “temporary interruption that I hope will be over in a matter of days.”
Grossi said the IAEA was planning to continue technical discussions with Iran but they had not yet taken place due to last weekend’s helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
The IAEA faces a range of challenges in Iran, from Tehran’s recent barring of many of the most experienced uranium-enrichment experts on its inspection team to Iran’s continued failure to explain uranium traces found at undeclared sites despite a years-long IAEA investigation.
The IAEA has been trying to expand its oversight of Iran’s atomic activities while the country’s uranium-enrichment program continues to advance. Iran is enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to the 90 percent of weapons-grade, which no other country has done without developing nuclear weapons.
Tehran says its aims are entirely peaceful.
Iran currently has about 140 kg of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent, Grossi said. According to an IAEA definition, that is theoretically enough, if enriched further, for three nuclear bombs. The IAEA’s last quarterly report in February said Iran had 121.5 kg, enough for two bombs.
Iran is still producing about nine kg a month of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent, Grossi said. It is also enriching to lower levels at which it has enough material for potentially more bombs.
Grossi, who two weeks ago said he wanted to start to see concrete results on improved cooperation from Iran soon, repeated that hope but said a more wide-ranging deal would require “a bit more time.”
For now, his team had not made progress on the main issues, he said.
“It is high time there is some concrete issuance and if not resolution, some clarification of what is this,” Grossi said of the uranium traces at undeclared sites.
“And I would say, confidence in many parts of the world (in Iran on the nuclear issue) is growing thinner.


Bahrain’s king to visit Russia and China

Bahrain’s king to visit Russia and China
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Bahrain’s king to visit Russia and China

Bahrain’s king to visit Russia and China

DUBAI: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa is visiting the Russian capital, Moscow, on Wednesday at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, state news agency BNA reported on Wednesday. 

The two leaders will discuss cooperation between their respective countries, regional and international developments, and the results of the 33rd Arab Summit, hosted last week in Bahrain.

The king will likewise visit China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping to participate in the opening session of the Arab-Chinese Cooperation Forum.

The two will discuss cooperation between Bahrain and China, as well as the outcome of the 33rd Arab Summit.


Far-right Israeli Cabinet minister visits contested Jerusalem holy site, raising tensions

Far-right Israeli Cabinet minister visits contested Jerusalem holy site, raising tensions
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Far-right Israeli Cabinet minister visits contested Jerusalem holy site, raising tensions

Far-right Israeli Cabinet minister visits contested Jerusalem holy site, raising tensions
  • The visit was a response to a move by three European countries to unilaterally recognize an independent Palestinian state

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israel’s far right national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Wednesday, declaring the contested holy site belongs “only to the state of Israel.”
Ben-Gvir said Wednesday’s visit was a response to a move by three European countries to unilaterally recognize an independent Palestinian state.
“We will not even allow a statement about a Palestinian state,” he said.
The hilltop compound is revered by Jews and Muslims, and the conflicting claims have led to numerous rounds of violence in the past.
Israel allows Jews to visit the compound, but not to pray there. But the visit is likely to be seen around the world as a provocation.
Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they are recognizing a Palestinian state in a historic move that drew condemnation from Israel and jubilation from the Palestinians. Israel immediately ordered back its ambassadors from Norway and Ireland.
The formal recognition will be made on May 28. The development is a step toward a long-held Palestinian aspiration that came against the backdrop of international outrage over the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s offensive there.
It was a lightning cascade of announcements. First was Norway, whose Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said “there cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”
“By recognizing a Palestinian state, Norway supports the Arab peace plan,” he said and added that the Scandinavian country will “regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails.”
Several European Union countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region. The decision may generate momentum for the recognition of a Palestinian state by other EU countries and could spur further steps at the United Nations, deepening Israel’s isolation.
Norway, which is not a member of the EU but mirror its moves, has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said. “Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”
Since the unprecedented attack by Hamas-led militants on Israel on Oct. 7, Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.
Wednesday’s announcements come more than 30 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. Since then, “the Palestinians have taken important steps toward a two-state solution,” the Norwegian government said.
It added that the World Bank determined that a Palestinian state had met key criteria to function as a state in 2011, that national institutions have been built up to provide the population with important services.
“The war in Gaza and the constant expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” it said.
In making his announcement, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said the move was coordinated with Spain and Norway — and that it was a “historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.” He said it was intended to help move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to resolution through a two-state solution.
Harris said he thinks other countries will join Norway, Spain and Ireland in recognizing a Palestinian state “in the weeks ahead.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Socialist leader since 2018, made the expected announcement to the nation’s Parliament on Wednesday. He had spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries to garner support for the recognition, as well as for a possible ceasefire in Gaza. He has said several times that he was committed to the move.
“We know that this initiative won’t bring back the past and the lives lost in Palestine, but we believe that it will give the Palestinians two things that are very important for their present and their future: dignity and hope,” Sánchez said.
“This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” Sánchez added, while acknowledging that it will most likely cause diplomatic tensions with Israel. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency.”
Sánchez argued that the move is needed to support the viability of a two-state solution that he said “is in serious danger” with the war in Gaza.
“I have spent weeks and months speaking with leaders inside and outside of the region and if one thing is clear is that Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate,” the Spanish leader said.
Earlier this month, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Albares said he had informed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken of his government’s intention to recognize a Palestinian state.
Hugh Lovatt, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said “recognition is a tangible step toward a viable political track leading to Palestinian self-determination.”
But in order for it to have an impact, he said, it must come with “tangible steps to counter Israel’s annexation and settlement of Palestinian territory – such as banning settlement products and financial services.”
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel. He spoke before Spain’s announcement.
“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and the whole world: terrorism pays,” Katz said.
He said that the recognition could impede efforts to return Israel’s hostages being held in Gaza and makes a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran.” He also threatened to recall Israel’s ambassador to Spain if the country takes a similar position.
Regarding the Israeli decision to recall its ambassador in Oslo, Gahr Støre said “we will take note of that. This is a government with which we have many disagreements. What we agree on is to condemn Hamas’s cruel attack on Oct. 7.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking after Norway’s announcement, welcomed the move and called on other countries to follow.
In a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency, Abbas said Norway’s decision will enshrine “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination” and support efforts to bring about a two-state solution with Israel.
Some 140 countries have already recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of United Nations members — but none of the major Western powers has done so. This move could put more pressure continental heavyweights France and Germany to reconsider their position.
The United States and Britain, among others, have backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside Israel as a solution to the Middle East’s most intractable conflict. They insist, however, that Palestinian independence should come as part of a negotiated settlement.
The head of the Arab League called the step taken by the trio of European nations as “a courageous step.”
“I salute and thank the three countries for this step that puts them on the right side of history in this conflict,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit wrote on the social media platform X.
Turkiye also applauded the decision, calling it an important step toward the restoration of the “usurped rights of the Palestinians.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said the move would help “Palestine gain the status it deserves in the international community.”

Battleground: Jerusalem
The biblical battle for the Holy City
Enter
keywords