Israel Issues First Statement on Nerve Agent Attack in U.K., but Doesn't Mention Russia

Britain asked for an official condemnation, though Israel only issued its Russia-free statement after a delay

Members of the British Army work in a residential street in Alderholt following last week's nerve agent attack, southern England, March 15, 2018.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP

Israel issued its first condemnation of the use of a military-grade nerve agent in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England, though failed to mention Russia by name in its statement.

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"Israel views with gravity the event which took place in Great Britain and condemns it vigorously. We hope that the international community will cooperate in order to avoid such further events," the statement from the Foreign Ministry read.

Britain asked for an official condemnation, though Israel only issued its Russia-free statement after a delay. The British made their request on Wednesday during a meeting betwen British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey and Israeli national securty adviser Meit Ben-Shabbat, whose meeting was scheduled in advance regarding another matter.

Political officials added that there was no significant delay in the statement compared to previous instances, which sometimes extend beyond 24 hours.

"The British Ambassador over the last few days has met with a number of senior officials where this issue has come up. We do expect a strong statement of support from all our close partners, given how seriously Russia's actions challenge the international rules-based system," the British Embassy in Israel said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, leaders of the United States, France and Germany joined Britain on Thursday in blaming Russia for poisoning a former spy with a powerful nerve agent, condemning what they called the first attack with a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.

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In a rare joint statement, U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May said “there is no plausible alternative explanation” to Russian responsibility.

They said Russia’s failure to respond to Britain’s “legitimate request” for an explanation “further underlines its responsibility” in the attack in southern England.

“This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War,” the leaders said, calling it “an assault on U.K. sovereignty” and “a breach of international law.”

Trump, who has often been reluctant to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it “certainly looks like the Russians were behind it.”

“It’s something that should never ever happen,” Trump said at the White House. “We’re taking it very seriously as I think are many others.”

Trump spoke to reporters after his administration announced new sanctions on Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The four-nation statement is the fruit of British efforts to enlist international support as it tries to hold Russia accountable for the March 4 attack that left former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in critical condition and a British police officer seriously ill.