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Israel-Hamas conflict: India calls for 'immediate and unconditional' release of hostages

New Delhi: As the Israel-Hamas conflict continues, India on Thursday urged both the sides to eschew violence, de-escalate the situation and create conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations towards a two-state solution to the Palestine issue.

Without naming Hamas, India also called for ‘immediate and unconditional’ release of hostages.

Israel has been carrying out a massive military offensive in Gaza following the unprecedented and multi-pronged attacks on Israeli cities by Hamas militants on October 7.

Hamas killed around 1,400 people in Israel and kidnapped more than 220. Around 10,500 people have been killed in Gaza in the Israeli offensive, according to the Hamas-run authorities in Gaza.

At his weekly media briefing, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Arindam Bagchi said India has made its position clear on the Hamas-Israel conflict on multiple occasions including during the UN General Assembly debate on October 27.

“We have strongly condemned the horrific attack on Israel, urged the need for zero tolerance for terrorism and called for immediate and unconditional release of hostages,” he said.

“We have also conveyed our deep concern at the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the increasing civilian toll and welcomed efforts to de-escalate the situation and provide humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Bagchi said India has also sent 38 tonnes of humanitarian relief material and emphasised the need for strict ‘observance of international humanitarian law.’ The relief materials were sent to the people of Gaza.

“We have also urged the parties to de-escalate, eschew violence and work towards creating conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations towards a two state solution. That captures all aspects of how we look at the very difficult situation there,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held phone conversations with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas following escalation of the conflict.

Asked about reports that the Israeli construction industry is looking at recruiting 100,000 Indian workers to replace the 90,000 Palestinians, he was not aware of any such requests from Tel Aviv.

“I am not sure of any specific conversations or requests. I saw some reports of 100,000 workers replacing other workers there. I have not heard any of those things. (I am) not aware of any specific figure or request,” Bagchi said.

In a larger context, he said India has been working towards giving its citizens access to the ‘global work place’.

“In this regard, we have been in discussion on trying to get into mobility agreements with a number of countries. Such frameworks and agreements ensure that our people are treated fairly, their rights are protected and they are not discriminated against,” Bagchi said.

“In Israel, there are already a number of Indian workers employed there, especially in the care-giver sector. Since 2022, we have been discussing a bilateral framework in the construction and care-giver sectors,” he said.

“But this is a long-term initiative. But I am not aware of any specific requests or the numbers that have been floating around,” he said.

(Published 09 November 2023, 16:43 IST)

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