In the midst of the deadly war in the Gaza Strip between the Islamist movement Hamas and Israel, several European countries announced on Wednesday May 22 that they would recognize Palestine as a state. This decision, criticized by the Israeli authorities, is welcomed by many Arab countries. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for its part, sees it as “the path to stability, security and peace in the region”. For its part, Hamas said: “We consider this an important step towards asserting our right to land.”

Israeli strikes continue in several places in the Gaza Strip. Since October 7, they have caused at least 35,709 deaths, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, administered by Hamas. In twenty-four hours, at least 62 additional deaths were recorded, according to a press release from the ministry, which also reported 79,990 wounded in more than seven months of war.

Israeli airstrikes were carried out across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, including Rafah in the south, Jabalia, Zeitoun and Gaza City in the north, according to witnesses. Early in the morning, an Agence France-Presse team also reported artillery fire in and around Rafah (south), an overpopulated city where certain sectors have been the scene of ground operations since the beginning of the month despite opposition from the international community. Explosions were also heard by witnesses.

Ten people were killed and several injured in Al-Zawaida (center) during nighttime strikes, according to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. Gaza Civil Defense also reported that six bodies had been extricated from the rubble of a house hit by Israeli bombardment in Jabalia.

Still in the north of the territory, the operation of the two hospitals still in operation, both located near the Jabalia camp, is now threatened by the upsurge in fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas fighters. An Israeli raid, which began Tuesday morning on the West Bank town of Jenin and left eight people dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, was still underway on Wednesday.

Spain, Ireland and Norway decided on Wednesday May 22 to officially recognize the State of Palestine. This is the first time since 2014 and a similar decision taken by Sweden that European states have taken this symbolic step, in the hope of leading other countries to do the same, while the two-state solution is “ in danger” in the midst of the war in Gaza.

The French Minister of Foreign Affairs estimated, for his part, that “the recognition of Palestine is not a taboo for France” but that Paris “does not consider that the conditions were present to date for this decision to have a real impact in [the] process” of putting forward a two-state solution.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision by three European countries to recognize the state of Palestine a “reward for terrorism” that “will not bring peace.” “We cannot give this Evil a State,” said the Israeli leader, “it will be a terrorist State, it will try to commit the October 7 massacre again and again, and we will not accept that.” “A reward for terrorism will not bring peace,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a video released by his office.

Israeli Minister of National Security and leader of the far-right Jewish Force party, Itamar Ben Gvir, visited the Esplanade des Mosques in Israeli-occupied and annexed East Jerusalem on Wednesday and denounced the recognition of the State of Palestine. “The countries which today recognized a Palestinian state are rewarding the murderers and the aggressors,” said Mr. Ben Gvir in a video published on X and filmed from the Esplanade des Mosques, the Temple Mount for the Jews, where he was visiting for the first time since October 7. Mr. Ben Gvir, who regularly visits this place, also reaffirmed during his visit on Wednesday morning that the “most sacred site of the Jewish people belongs only to the State of Israel”.

In the United States, White House spokesperson Adrienne Watson reported: Joe Biden, “the president [of the United States] is a strong supporter of a two-state solution and has been so throughout his career. He believes that a Palestinian state must come into being through direct negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral recognition.

Many Arab countries, however, welcomed the decision of Spain, Ireland and Norway. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which borders Palestinian territory, were among the first to react. Riyadh welcomed a “positive decision”, which underlines “the international consensus on the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination”, and called on other countries to do the same.

For Egypt it is a “welcome step supporting international efforts aimed at opening a political horizon.” The recognition of the State of Palestine is “an important step in favor of the two-state solution”, reacted Qatar, another Gulf country.

Jordan, which operates Muslim and Christian places of worship in Jerusalem, considered the decision an “important and essential step towards the two-state solution.” The six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman) also welcomed the announcement. The secretary general of the twenty-two-nation Arab League called on all countries to “follow the example of the three countries in their courageous step.”