Kathryn Armstrong,BBC News

Irish PM: We asked the world to recognise us, now we’re recognising Palestine

Ireland, Norway, and Spain have announced they will formally recognise a Palestinian state from 28 May.

Spain and Ireland said the decision was not against Israel nor in favour of Hamas, but rather in support of peace.

Israel reacted angrily, warning the move would mean more instability in the region and recalling its ambassadors to all three countries.

Both Hamas and its rival, the Palestinian Authority, have welcomed the recognition.

Norway was first to make its announcement Wednesday in a move co-ordinated with the other two countries.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in an address that the move was “in support of moderate forces that are on a retreating front in a protracted and cruel conflict”.

“This is an investment in the only solution that can bring lasting peace in the Middle East,” he added, referring to the so-called two-state solution which would see an Israeli and a Palestinian state existing peacefully next to each other.

Ireland and Spain followed suit soon after.

“Today, we state clearly our unambiguous support for the equal right to security, dignity, and self-determination for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples,” Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said.

The country’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Simon Harris later stressed that “Hamas is not the Palestinian people”.

“Today’s decision to recognise Palestine is taken to help create a peaceful future,” he said.

Mr Harris’s comments were echoed by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who said the move was “not against Israel, is not against the Jews”.

“It is not in favour of Hamas, which is something that has been said. This recognition is not against anyone, it is in favour of peace and coexistence.”

Israel reacted to the announcements with fury.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move by Ireland, Norway and Spain as a “reward for terrorism” and said it would not bring peace.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he was ordering the immediate return of the Israeli ambassadors to all three countries for “consultations”.

“Israel will not go over this in silence – there will be other serious consequences,” he said.

Mr Katz also said the three countries’ ambassadors in Israel will be summoned for “reprimand talks”, during which they will be shown a video of the abduction of female Israeli soldiers on 7 October.

Map showing Israel, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Hamas, which controls Gaza and is currently at war with Israel, said Wednesday’s announcements would be a “turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue”.

In a statement to AFP, Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas figure, said the “brave resistance” of the Palestinian people was behind the move.

Hamas’s rival, the Palestinian Authority (PA) – which controls parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank – said Norway, Spain and Ireland had demonstrated their “unwavering commitment” to “delivering the long overdue justice to the Palestinian people”.

Also on Wednesday, the Israeli military approved the return of Israeli citizens to the sites of three settlements in the occupied West Bank, which they had been banned from entering since 2005.

Israel’s parliament had voted to allow its citizens to return in March last year, but military permission was needed for the bill to be enforced.

Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The issue of Palestinian statehood has vexed the international community for decades.

Since the 7 October attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled down on his opposition to such a plan, saying the creation of a Palestinian state would compromise Israel’s security.

About 1,200 people were killed in the unprecedented attacks on 7 October, when Hamas gunmen burst into Israel. They took 252 others back to Gaza as hostages.

Since then, more than 35,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s Gaza offensive, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Most of the world already recognises the state of Palestine. Earlier this month, 143 of the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of it joining the UN, something only states can do.

Before Wednesday’s announcements, only nine European countries supported Palestinian statehood and most of those took the decision in 1988 when they were part of the Soviet bloc.

Most other European countries, and the US, still believe recognition should come only as part of a long-term two-state solution to the conflict.

A White House spokesperson said US President Joe Biden was a “strong supporter” of the two-state solution, and believed “a Palestinian state should be realised through direct negotiations, not through unilateral recognition”.

Slovenia and Malta have also said recently that they were considering a formal recognition.

Norway’s prime minister also said on Wednesday that he hoped the recognition of Palestinian statehood by the three countries would bring renewed momentum to the peace talks.

Long-running negotiations in Cairo aimed at securing a truce and further hostage releases are currently stalled.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. Earlier this week, the UN said food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah had been suspended due to a lack of supplies and insecurity.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) recently applied for arrest warrants for Mr Netanyahu and Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes. Both Israel and Hamas have condemned the move.

Israel says an offensive in Rafah is needed to eliminate Hamas but the international community has warned against it, saying it will greatly exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

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