Austria, Slovenia fly flag of Israel in solidarity
The blue and white Israeli flag flew on official buildings in Austria and Slovenia on Friday in a sign of “solidarity” with the Jewish state, officials said.
In Austria, conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement sent to AFP: “I condemn with the utmost firmness the attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip.”
“Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks. To show our solidarity … we have put up the Israeli flag,” on the chancellery and the foreign ministry, the statement added.
“Nothing justifies the more than 1,000 rockets that Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired up to now at Israel from Gaza,” said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.
“We strongly support the security of Israel.”
Later in the day neighbouring Slovenia joined in with a similar measure.
“In a sign of solidarity, we flew the Israeli flag on the government building,” the Slovene government said in a tweet with a photo of the standard.
“We condemn the terrorist attacks and stand with Israel,” it said.
In 2000, when Austria’s far-right FPOe — a party founded by former Nazis — joined the coalition government, Israel recalled its ambassador from Vienna in protest.
It took three years for ties to return to normal.
When Kurz took charge of a new coalition government with the FPOe in December 2017, he made improving relations with Israel a priority.
However, Israel refused to have any contact with ministers from the far right, who finally returned to the opposition in May 2019.
Austria is today ruled by the conservatives in alliance with the Greens and in March, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin paid an official visit to Vienna.
The capital houses a major UN site and is currently hosting international negotiations to try to salvage the Iran nuclear agreement.
In the US, Republicans on Thursday stepped up pressure on President Joe Biden to halt the discussions as Iran’s ally Hamas fires rockets into Israel.
Israel bombarded Gaza with artillery and air strikes on Friday following a new barrage of rockets from the Hamas-run enclave, intensifying a conflict that has claimed more than 120 lives.
The most intense fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2014 has been accompanied by an unprecedented outbreak of mob violence between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.