The Austrian Foreign Ministry expressed “regret” over the Iranian foreign minister’s decision. Austria’s government raised Israeli flags over the Chancellor’s Office building and the Foreign Ministry “in solidarity with” Tel Aviv over a series of rocket attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif canceled his visit to Austria on Saturday over the flying of Israeli flags over state buildings, Austria Presse Agentur reports, citing a spokesperson for the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
Zarif had planned to visit Vienna for talks with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, but cancelled the trip at the last minute in protest over the flags.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz ordered the flying of Israeli flags over the Chancellery and Foreign Ministry buildings to express Vienna’s “solidarity” with Israel, tweeting that “the terrorist attacks on Israel have to be condemned in the strongest way” and stressing that Vienna “stands by Israel’s side”.
The diplomatic spat comes in the wake of the most serious security crisis in Israel in years, with weeks of protests in Jerusalem over Israeli authorities’ move to block off access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque escalating into violence, including riots, inter-ethnic clashes, arson attacks, shootings and confrontations between security forces and Arab-Israeli protesters. The unrest escalated after Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip began firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, with Tel Aviv responding with airstrikes and threatening a ground invasion.
The violence has led to the deaths of at least 126 civilians and 20 militants in Gaza, with 16 Palestinians killed in protests in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Seven civilians in Israel and one Israeli soldier were also killed in the violence. According to the Red Crescent, over 1,330 Palestinians have been injured in the clashes in the occupied territories to date.
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