G7 top diplomats call for humanitarian pauses in Israel-Hamas war

The Group of Seven foreign ministers agreed Wednesday to call for a pause in the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas so that humanitarian supplies can be delivered to the Gaza Strip, Japan’s top diplomat said.

The G7 members affirmed the need for “urgent action to address the humanitarian crisis” in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave besieged by Israel, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said at a wrap-up press conference after their two-day meeting in Tokyo.

While reiterating its condemnation of the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas on Israel, the G7 also emphasized the importance of complying with international humanitarian law during the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, Kamikawa said.

The Israeli military has expanded its air and ground operations in Hamas-ruled Gaza despite growing calls from the international community for a humanitarian cease-fire.

The war has so far killed more than 10,000 people in Gaza and over 1,400 in Israel.

During a phone call on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden reportedly proposed a three-day pause in fighting to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help secure the release of some hostages held by Hamas, but the idea was rejected.

Israel has been accused of using disproportionate force and acting beyond the scope of self-defense, prompting some countries to recall their ambassadors.

In late October, the six G7 members excluding Japan issued a joint statement expressing support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” and referring to Hamas as a “terrorist organization,” while demanding adherence to international humanitarian law.

At a session early Wednesday, the G7 ministers confirmed that their strong support for Ukraine and severe economic sanctions imposed on Russia remain unchanged, amid a shift in global attention toward the escalating Israel-Hamas war.

The ministers, meanwhile, pledged to ramp up efforts to promote mid- and long-term reconstruction work in Ukraine, which has been under invasion by Russia since February 2022, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

After the opening day’s working dinner on the situation in the Middle East, the participants also discussed developments in the Indo-Pacific region, with China apparently in mind, followed by two online outreach sessions on Wednesday.

They agreed on the importance of conveying their concerns directly to China and the necessity of working together with the Asian power on global challenges, the ministry said, against the backdrop of its increasing regional military and economic clout.

One of the outreach talks on Wednesday was with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the other with representatives of five Central Asian states, the ministry said.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga