Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that the war between Israel and Hamas could spread far beyond the Middle East, while condemning the shelling of civilians in the Gaza Strip, stressing that it was wrong to punish the innocent – women, children and the elderly – for the crimes of others.

The Kremlin strongman made the comments during a meeting with religious leaders of various denominations. As he said, recently he had contacts with heads of state and government, to whom he emphasized that the bloodshed in the Middle East must stop because otherwise there is a risk of a much bigger conflagration.

“Our task today, our main task, is to stop bloodshed and violence,” the Russian president stressed. “Otherwise, further escalation of the crisis has serious, extremely dangerous and disastrous consequences. Not just for the Middle East region. It could spread far beyond the borders of the Middle East.”

Criticizing the West, he said some powers – which he did not name – were seeking to provoke further escalation and involve as many countries as possible in the conflict. The goal is, according to Putin, to “cause a wave of chaos and mutual hatred not only in the Middle East but also beyond it. For this purpose, among other things, they are trying to manipulate national and religious sentiments of millions of people,” he argued.

President Putin expressed his condolences to the families of Israelis and citizens of other countries who were killed or injured in the bloody attack launched by Hamas on October 7.

He reiterated that Moscow still supports the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, considering it the only solution for sustainable peace in the region.

He made clear, however, that he believes Israel is making a mistake by continuing to pound the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the massacre and hostage-taking of hundreds of people by Hamas. “It is equally clear to us that innocent people should not be held responsible for crimes committed by others,” the Russian president said, noting that in the Gaza Strip “hundreds of thousands of people have been left without shelter, food, water, electricity and medical care.” .