Malaysian PM refuses to condemn Hamas attacks on Israel

Iman Muttaqin Yusof and Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian PM refuses to condemn Hamas attacks on Israel Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim delivers his 2024 budget speech at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 13, 2023.
Malaysia’s Department of Information via AP

Malaysia’s prime minister said Monday that the majority-Muslim nation would not give into Western countries’ calls to condemn Palestinian Hamas militants after they launched a wave of deadly attacks against Israelis earlier this month.

Addressing Parliament, Anwar Ibrahim said he would travel to Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend a conference of Gulf states and ASEAN leaders to discuss the new crisis in the Middle East and efforts to aid Palestinian civilians left defenseless in the face of the Israel-Hamas war. He also planned to have a face-to-face meeting with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“In every issue, meeting, and discussion, what they [Western nations] want from us is for Malaysia to condemn Hamas,” Anwar told MPs.

“I explained that, in terms of our policy, we have had a long-standing relationship with Hamas, and this relationship continues,” he said. “Therefore, we do not agree with their pressure because Hamas also won in Gaza through free elections and the people of Gaza chose them to lead.”

Hamas launched rockets against Israel and attacked civilian targets from the ground during a Jewish holiday on Oct. 7, and Israel responded with retaliatory strikes, which has led to the deaths or injuries of thousands of people on both sides.

The United States and other Western countries have widely condemned the initial attacks by Hamas fighters that killed hundreds of Israelis, mostly civilians, according to reports. The U.S. and other countries in the West have branded Hamas a terrorist group.

As of late Monday, the war was expected to escalate through an imminent ground invasion by Israeli forces into the Gaza Strip, a densely populated Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas.  

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Women show support for Palestinians as they listen to a speech in front of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 13, 2023. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

In Kuala Lumpur, Anwar said that Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

“I have given full mandate to the foreign minister to discuss and take whatever possible decision to expedite the humanitarian aid and any actions that are mutually agreed by neighbors so that the decision can be implemented effectively,” the prime minister told Parliament.

“[T]he West and European countries are being hypocritical. They strongly criticized Russia in its war against Ukraine, but now they allow this atrocity to continue in Gaza,” he said, referring to Israel’s retaliatory strikes.

Anwar did not comment about alleged atrocities carried out by Hamas militants against Israeli civilians during the Oct. 7 attacks.

Thais organize evacuation flights

Meanwhile in neighboring Thailand, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced plans to charter 32 commercial flights to expedite efforts to repatriate thousands of Thai nationals from Israel by the end of October.

“We are trying our best to evacuate them as soon as possible. We need more than 32 more flights,” Srettha said Monday. 

Spokesman Chai Watcharong said the Thai government was prioritizing evacuations.

“By month’s end, Nok Air, Air Israel, Thai Airways and Spice Air will fly 32 flights to bring 5,700 people home – but that is not enough,” he said. “We have 7,000 people wanting to come home and the number is increasing. 

“Israel’s ground offensives could make the situation worse. There is no way to evacuate people by land or sea, but by air only.”  

Thailand’s ministry of foreign affairs said four more Thai nationals were pronounced dead on Sunday, bringing the toll to 29, while 17 were being held hostage by Hamas militants, and another 16 had been injured in the violence.

Chokechai Yongpoth, 33, arrived home on Monday along with 136 other Thais.

“I was in Moshav Mivtahim, less than 10 km (6.2 miles) from the Gaza Strip,” the farm hand said, adding that Hamas fighters had raided their camp in southern Israel. “They sprayed the bullets. I just hid quietly in my room.

“I’m pleased to come back home. I told my family, I wouldn’t likely go back there,” said Chokechai, who had been in Israel for only one month.  

Elsewhere in the region, most Indonesians in Israel had departed for Jordan last week, but over 100 remained in Israel and the West Bank – primarily religious pilgrims and students – according to an Indonesian foreign ministry official.

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Israeli soldiers prepare to patrol along a road near the border between Israel and Lebanon, Oct. 16, 2023. [Francisco Seco/AP]

In the Philippines, the government said it was ready to evacuate citizens from Israel, where three Filipinos were reported killed. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had previously promised proper burials for his slain compatriots. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that 131 Filipinos in Gaza City had left the region while nearly 40 Filipinos had asked to be repatriated from Israel, where there are an estimated 30,000 Philippine migrant workers. 

In Cotabato, a southern city with a big Muslim population, thousands protested over concerns about the expected Israeli invasion of Gaza.

The protesters urged nations near the fighting to welcome refugees who have had no food, water or shelter for more than a week, according to reports. 

“If we cannot help them or support with the use of weapons, we will help through prayers,” Nesreen Ibrahim, a leader of the Bangsamoro Women of Maguindanao, told a crowd of 13,000 pro-Palestinians as shouts of Allahu Akbar (God is Great) erupted. 

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Thousands of Filipino Muslims rally in Cotabato City in support of Palestinians, Oct. 16, 2023. [Mark Navales/BenarNews]

Malaysia has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and has consistently advocated for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. 

Last week, thousands of Malaysians, including former Prime Ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin, rallied in Kuala Lumpur to condemn Israel’s air attacks on Gaza.

Speaking to Parliament, Anwar said the Israeli government had blocked humanitarian assistance, leaving Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip without access to food, medical and clean drinking water. 

“Despite the urgent need for humanitarian assistance, the situation remains dire as the entry points are subject to blockades and bombardments. 

“Several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, have attempted to send medical and food aid to Gaza, but their efforts have been hindered due to the Israeli government’s oppressive policies.

“It’s apparent hypocrisy of the United States and Western nations, who appear hesitant to grant approval for the delivery of essential supplies, such as food and clean drinking water, to the severely injured and those who have lost everything in Gaza,” he said.

To support the Palestinian people, Malaysia pledged 10 million ringgit (U.S. $2.12 million), with an additional 100 million ringgit ($21.2 million) donated by government-linked companies for a humanitarian and medical fund in Gaza.

Nontarat Phaicharoen in Bangkok, Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales in Cotabato City, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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