13 October 2023

Worker at Israeli embassy in Beijing in hospital after attack

13 October 2023

An employee of the Israeli embassy in Beijing has been taken to hospital after being attacked, the country’s foreign ministry said.

Chinese officials did not immediately acknowledge the assault.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the attack, though it comes after Israel had criticised China over its statement that followed Hamas’ unprecedented and deadly incursion into southern Israel last Saturday.

The Israeli foreign ministry said the attack did not happen on the embassy’s grounds.

The identity of the employee was not made public and no-one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred as calls in Muslim nations grew for mass protests after Friday prayers over Israel’s intense bombing campaign in Gaza.

“The employee was transferred to hospital and he is in a stable condition,” the statement said, without giving additional details. It added that Israeli officials are still trying to assess the “background” of what happened in the assault.

Just before making the announcement, Israel’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Ambassador Rafi Harpaz had spoken on Thursday with the Chinese envoy for the Middle East, Zhai Jun, to express his country’s “deep disappointment” over China’s comments that followed the Hamas incursion.

There was “no clear and unequivocal condemnation of the terrible massacre committed by the terrorist organization Hamas against innocent civilians and the abduction of dozens of them to Gaza,” the statement said.

“The Chinese announcements do not contain any element of Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens, a fundamental right of any sovereign country that was attacked in an unprecedented manner and with cruelty that has no place in human society.”

An earlier Chinese statement about the meeting described Beijing as being “deeply concerned over the escalation of tensions and violence between Israel and Palestine and saddened by the civilian casualties caused by the conflict”.

It read: “China condemns actions that harm innocent civilians, and calls for an early cease-fire and the end of violence, and resuming talks for peace on the basis of the two-state solution to boost the two peoples’ confidence in achieving peace.”

In Beijing, about half-a-dozen plainclothes police were stationed outside the Israeli Embassy in addition to the normal contingent of uniformed officers.

A call to the embassy went unanswered on Friday. About a mile away at the Palestinian Embassy in Beijing, plainclothes officers were also on hand and one was tightening wires on a fence.

While the United States remains Israel’s top ally, China in recent months had tried to reach out to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox government as tensions had risen with Washington over Mr Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of the country’s judiciary, which sparked months of protests.

Since the Hamas attack, however, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and defence secretary Lloyd Austin have travelled to Israel, while US President Joe Biden also spoke out about the incursion.

America has also sent additional arms to Israel, deployed one aircraft carrier group and plans to send another to discourage a regional escalation as Israel prepares for a possible ground war in Gaza.

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