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An employee at Israel’s Embassy in Beijing was attacked in unclear circumstances and is hospitalized

BEIJING (AP) — An employee of the Israeli Embassy in Beijing was attacked on Friday and later hospitalized, the country’s Foreign Ministry said. China did not immediately acknowledge the assault.

It wasn’t immediately clear what sparked the attack, though it comes after Israel had criticized China for its statement that followed Hamas’ unprecedented and deadly incursion into southern Israel last Saturday that sparked the ongoing war between the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Israel.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement to journalists, saying 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 were still trying to assess the “background” of what happened in the assault.

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Just before making the announcement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Ambassador Rafi Harpaz had spoken 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.

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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.”

“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,” the statement read.

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. Some 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) 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 ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox government as tensions had risen with Washington over Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of the country’s judiciary, which sparked months of protests.

Since the attack, however, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have traveled to Israel, while President Joe Biden also has spoken out about the Hamas attack. America also has 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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Gambrell reported from Jerusalem.